Henrico Citizen: Henrico restaurateur’s ‘Freedom Flag’ may become a national 9/11 symbol


U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Peter King (R-NY-01) have led the introduction of bipartisan legislation to make sure the memory of those lost in the September 11, 2001 attacks will be honored for generations to come.

The National Nine-Eleven Victims and Emergency Responders Flag of Remembrance, Gratitude, and Education for Tomorrow Act, or the National NEVER FORGET Act, would designate the Freedom Flag as a national symbol of the nation’s commitment to honoring and remembering all those who lost their lives as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Additionally, the legislation would require the Freedom Flag to be flown each year on Sept. 11 and each subsequent day through the end of September at the U.S. Capitol, the White House, each national cemetery, major Department of Defense installations, Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and each U.S. Postal Service post office.

In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, Henrico pizzeria owner Richard Melito sketched a rendering of what would eventually become the “Freedom Flag” — which, as of 2018, is an official emblem of the Commonwealth of Virginia. His intention was to develop a physical symbol that would not only honor the victims of the attacks, but also educate students about the events of that day. Following the flag’s creation, communities across the United States began requesting Freedom Flags, and in 2002, the non-profit Freedom Flag Foundation was created to respond to this nationwide interest in the Flag and develop educational programming for students and schools.

“The Freedom Flag is a powerful, physical reminder of one of the darkest days in American history,” Spanberger said. “Fundamentally, the story of the Freedom Flag is the story of how our country responded to a vile act of evil with a profound sense of national resolve — and its symbols have allowed generations of Americans to reflect on the sacrifice of those who perished, as well as the remarkable courage of the heroes who came to their aid in a moment of unimaginable darkness.”

“It is imperative that we establish a federal symbol to honor the heroism, sacrifice and the lives of all those killed on that tragic day,” said Congressman King. “I am proud to work with Rep. Spanberger on this important legislation.”

Since the foundation’s creation in 2002, it has developed a curriculum that uses the visuals of the Freedom Flag to teach students about the events of Sept., 11, 2001 — and today, that curriculum is used in school districts throughout Virginia.

The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by 20 other U.S. House members, including seven others from Virginia.

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