The Renaissance Bridge was honored with the presence of the Star Spangled Banner on Thursday afternoon. The 30-by-50 foot flag flew over the canal as a part of Flag Day, and is the sister of the Patriot Flag, which flew over the canal last year.
"This flag is named the Star Spangled Banner and honors all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks," North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham said.
Lapham organized the display with the World Foundation, which works to fly the flag in cities across the country. Last year, the Patriot Flag flew in 50 states in 50 weeks. In 2013, the Star Spangled Banner, which was donated from Springfield, Ill., will visit 50 capitals in 50 weeks.
"This flag was taken to Shanksville, the Pentagon, and New York City on 9/11 along with the Patriot Flag," Charles Zahm of the World Foundation said.
The Star Spangled Banner then replaced the Patriot Flag, which was retired to limit wear and tear. The Banner was christened on September 14th — the anniversary of the victory at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would become our national anthem.
Now, the World Foundation is flying the Star Spangled Banner for those who are interested in hosting it. The flag has been flown 16 times in the Western New York area in the past few weeks, and has visited Hamburg and Niagara Falls recently.
North Tonawanda firefighters raised the flag at noon on Thursday, and it flew until 1 p.m. It was then displayed at the 9/11 Memorial on Transit Road and a Buffalo Bisons game.
"Next week, it will fly in the California State Fair and at the San Diego Air Force Base," Zahm said.
Area residents who attended the display were awed by the sight of the massive flag and enjoyed the ceremony.
"This is pretty awesome," Kathy Messana of the City of Tonawanda said. "I missed it last year, but I am so glad I got to see it this year."
Lindsay Stout, of North Tonawanda, also attended the display.
"I stumbled upon it, but am glad I did — I love this stuff," Stout said. "My husband is in the military and I wanted to support the firefighters."
FDNY retired Lt. Joe Torrillo, who survived the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, is the spokesperson for the flag and helped bring it to the Twin Cities. Torrillo said that the flag acts a reminder of a forgotten holiday, Flag Day, which is the anniversary of the adoption of the United States.
"The holiday and the flag should be acknowledged," Torrillo said. "It is the most popular symbol of liberty and justice, and honors the 1,343,812 people who have sacrificed their lives for the United States since 1776."
To trace the flag's travels or for more information, visit www.project2997.org.