The Flag of Honor Story

The events of September 11, 2001, changed the world forever. Often lost in the dialog are the actual individuals who died that day. Each of the 2982 victims was pursuing life surrounded by their children, spouses, parents, siblings, and friends. Each in their own way was living the American dream. And each one of them was killed because they were part of America. They should never be relegated to mere numbers but be remembered by name as the individual lives they were.

The Inspiration

Recovering from recent heart surgery, John Michelotti watched as the Twin Towers collapsed and thousands of lives were lost. “I became soberingly aware of my own mortality,” said Michelotti. As the media scrambled to define the number of victims, the story of the individuals whose lives were lost was ignored. Michelotti felt that each victim deserves to be remembered not only collectively but as the individuals they were. Although Michelotti did not yet know it, this was the inspiration for an effort that would grow rapidly. “This isn’t just a list,” he said, “These were real people with real lives and families. They came from every background, every color, every ethnicity, every religion.” John Michelotti felt these lives, these souls, needed to be properly memorialized in a way that represented the honor they stood for and the country they loved. Thus, Michelotti began crafting the Flag of Honor.

First Steps

“My wife and I started compiling a list of all the names we could find.” After tireless research and months of work, John and his wife developed a comprehensive list of those who died during the events of 9/11. John reached out to his nephew, a graphic designer to ask if he could assemble the list of names on the American flag. Thus, the Flag of Honor was born.

The Flag of Honor became popular very quickly. Survivors and relatives of 9/11 victims had been searching for an elegant way to show their respect for those lives lost, and the Flag of Honor was exactly what they were looking for.

The Flag of Heroes

“But I didn’t think the Flag of Honor was enough,” Michelotti said. “I thought the first responders deserved to be recognized additionally for the ultimate sacrifice they made for their fellow human beings.” Of the 2,982 total deaths during the events on 9/11, 441 were emergency first responders who gave their lives so that others would live. John designed a second flag with the names, rank, and affiliation of those first-responders and named it appropriately the Flag of Heroes.

Made in the U.S.A.

The original editions of the Flags were manufactured outside of the United States. This is because the original design showcased the names written within the stripes of the Stars and Stripes Flag. “Since it was improper flag etiquette that nothing can ever be written on the Flag, no manufacturer in the U.S. would make it,” John said.

So, the Flags of Honor and Heroes went through one more design process, using the names to create the stripes, rather than be written atop them. The design now adheres to US flag etiquette to be manufactured and flown in the United States, “and now all of our flags are produced in America.”

The Impact

Now, over 500,000 Flags of Honor and Flags of Heroes have been distributed throughout the world. They are displayed in government buildings, firehouses and police stations, military bases around the world and in private homes throughout America. At the Fifth Anniversary Memorial Ceremony, held at Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park, 2982 Flags of Honor and Heroes erected on 10’ flagpoles were on display representing One Flag-One Life. Again on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, 2982 Flags of Honor and Heroes were flown at the World Trade Center Memorial at Battery Park, NYC. Events like these continue to take place, year after year, commemorating the souls lost and the families affected.

“A hundred years from now a child will find the flags in a footlocker in an attic and begin to understand what was lost on 9/11.”

“We shall never forget them.”