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Insurance Industry

Chubb Brings Ground Zero Flag Back Home

The iconic flag’s inclusion at the 9/11 Memorial Museum helps to commemorate the 15-year anniversary of the 2001 attacks.
By: | September 12, 2016 • 5 min read
Topics: Brokerage | Claims

Hours after the World Trade Center towers fell, newspaper photographer Thomas E. Franklin hitched a ride on a rescue tug boat to Manhattan and stood on the West Side Highway.

Across the wide road, atop the towers’ smoldering rubble, three dusty firefighters were affixing an American flag to a pole jutting skyward.

Franklin pointed his telephoto lens and snapped a picture that would appear not only on the front page of his paper, “The Record” of Bergen County, N.J., but in newspapers around the world.

The breathtaking image aptly captured a moment of unimaginable loss, resilience and hope, and echoed the famous photo of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima in World War II.

The flag at Ground Zero, which had been purchased at a boat show 10 months earlier for $50, was the centerpiece of one of the most memorable photos from one of the worst days in American history. In a snap, it became an invaluable national treasure.

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But hours later, the flag disappeared. And no one seemed to know who removed it or where it went.

After a few twists and turns, and 15 years, the iconic 4-by-6-foot American flag finally returned to New York City, courtesy of an insurance company.

“The raising of this American flag was a powerful symbol of hope, strength and resilience at one of the most trying moments in our nation’s history,” said Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb, at a ceremony on Sept. 8.

Chubb got involved when a claim was filed after the flag was initially lost.

“As we prepare again to pay tribute to those who were lost, this flag is a timely reminder of the spirit of our heroes and the resolve of a great city and great nation.

“Chubb is honored to donate the flag to its new, permanent and proper home in the 9/11 Memorial Museum,” Greenberg added.

Flag on Yacht Caked in Debris

When the World Trade Center’s twin towers came under attack, the flag was flying on the Star of America, a charter yacht docked nearby. The 130-foot-long, three-level boat with ivory-colored suede ceilings was owned by Shirley Dreifus and her late husband Spiros E. Kopelakis. It was insured by Chubb.

Evan Greenberg, right, chairman and CEO, Chubb, and Brad Meltzer, author and History channel host. Photo credit: Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial

Evan Greenberg, right, chairman and CEO, Chubb, and Brad Meltzer, author and History channel host. Photo credit: Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial

New York firefighter Dan McWilliams spotted the flag flying on the debris-caked yacht about 5 p.m. the day of the attacks, according to news stories published at the time. McWilliams removed the flag along with its pole from the deck, carried it toward West Street and with help from firefighters Billy Eisengrein and George Johnson, hoisted it.

While they have never met in person, the key players in the photo were linked again six month later when Dreifus and Kopelakis tracked down the three firefighters through a lawyer and asked them to sign affidavits stating that yes, they did remove their flag from their yacht.

The “New York Times” reported in March 2002 that Dreifus made the request as a legal formality that would allow her and her husband to donate the flag officially to the city, and perhaps claim a charitable deduction on their taxes.

The now-historic flag was invaluable. Chubb paid the full limit of the owners’ rental insurance to cover the claim.

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But, what no one knew at the time was that the wrong flag was recovered.

When Dreifus prepared to formally donate the flag, a size discrepancy was discovered: While the yacht’s flag measured 4-by-6 feet, this flag was 5-by-8 feet. Dreifus started a website in an effort to get the historic flag back.

After the mystery was featured in an October 2014 episode of “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” on the History channel, a man who wished to remain anonymous turned over the true original flag to police in Everett, Wash.

Police contacted representatives involved in the  documentary and together they began a forensic investigation that overwhelmingly determined that the flag was the Ground Zero Flag.

The story of the flag’s recovery and journey back to New York was retold in a television movie, “Ground Zero Flag Found,” which aired Sept. 11 on the History channel.

“We had always hoped this special flag and its story would be shared with our millions of annual visitors coming from around the world, and for that, we are thankful to Shirley Dreifus, the City of Everett, History, A&E Networks, and Chubb,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said in a statement.

“In the darkest hours of 9/11 when our country was at risk of losing all hope, the raising of this American flag by our first responders helped reaffirm that the nation would endure, would recover and rebuild, that we would always remember and honor all of those who lost their lives and risked their own to save others”

Shirley Dreyfus, left, Howard Bergstein, president, Erich Courant & Co.; and Marlene Cuadrado, personal lines manager, Courant

Shirley Dreifus, left, Howard Bergstein, president, Erich Courant & Co.; and Marlene Cuadrado, personal lines manager, Courant

On Sept. 8, Chubb joined with the flag’s original owner, Shirley Dreifus, and donated it to the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum in honor of Dreifus’s late husband.

Representatives from Erich Courant & Co., the insurance brokerage which handled the renters insurance claim on behalf of the owners, were also at the ceremony with their client.

“Never in my life have I handled a claim of this cultural magnitude,” said Howard Bergstein, Erich Courant’s owner and president.

“The photograph of this flag being hoisted by firefighters caused this flag to become an iconic symbol of American patriotism and unity. We are at once thrilled to be a part of it and also hope never to be part of something so devastatingly tragic ever again.”

It was “a once in a lifetime claim in terms of its cultural significance,” he said.

“Have I ever had another claim where the client was paid the full amount of their coverage because the lost product was deemed to be invaluable?

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“No, I never have been in that situation,” he said, noting that “the notoriety, the excitement of the flag’s recovery, the history, the sentiment,everything that has accompanied this claim has been extraordinary and I am hoping we never have to deal with something arising out of a tragedy again.”

The museum where the flag is now on display honors the 2,983 people killed in the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as well as the car bombing at the WTC on Feb. 26, 1993.

It displays more than 10,000 personal and monumental objects linked to the events of 9/11, while presenting intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery that are central to telling the story of the attacks and aftermath.

Chubb has played an ongoing role in the museum since conception. ACE, which merged with Chubb to form the current company, was a founding member of the 9/11 Museum & Memorial. Additionally, Chubb North America’s general counsel, Kevin M. Rampe, sits on the 9/11 Memorial’s board of directors.

Juliann Walsh is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]