By Glenn O’Donnell and Joe Zogbi
Edited by Tony Cuccia

     This Flag has quite the history coming to ESU” explains retired Detective Joe Zogbi. The story goes like this. Jimmy McEniry came back from the site with the Flag, and asked me: “Hey Zog, you’re an artist, can we put the names of the guys we lost in the stars along with the guys from the USS Cole?” I said, “Sure, I’ll see what I can do”.
     When I took art courses in high school there was a technique called “Dotting”, when you used a sharpie and made dots instead of drawing lines to create an image. This is before printers and dot matrix technology. Because the stars in the Flag were sewn in thread and not sewn on as a patch, that’s the only way I could get the names to work. It took some time to do. But it was worth it.
     The Flag was signed by first responders at Ground Zero, and military personnel who were involved in the ensuing conflict over the next year.
     In a ceremony the Flag given to the United States Marine Corps 26th MEU during the invasion of Afghanistan, and flew over the Kandahar Airport.
     As time went on, the Flag found its way back the USA into the hands of a USMC Major in Public Information. The Major often showed the Flag, was invited to public events and given VIP treatment all over the city. This over the protests of NYPD Emergency Service Unit personnel.
     During one of the “presentations”, the Major and his personnel were given front row seats at the US Open tennis tournament where the Flag was flying over the tennis stadium in the rain. The Flag was rescued from it’s precarious perch and returned to ESU.
     Shortly afterwards I received a phone call from an irate Gunnery Sergeant concerning the whereabouts of “their Flag”, and began to make barely concealed threats.
     At this time I placed a phone call to a friend who just happened to also be a retired Major in the USMC, and the current Chief of Staff for TSA. I inquired into the mind set of a USMC Major and what he thought of the entire story. He said to me, “Give the phone number where you are, and I will call you back”. Thirty minutes later I received that call and was advised that there would be no more issues or complaints from the POI Major’s office about the flag.
     My friend marched into the Commandant of the Marines Corps Office and told him the story. What happened next I can only guess, but we never heard about returning the flag to the PIO Major’s custody again.
     On 9/11/2002 I received a call form Chief Purtel, he asked me if I still had the flag, I said “Yes Sir”. He then asked me to bring it to Yankee Stadium, where it was to be in a pregame ceremony by ESU personnel.
     This is where it gets interesting, We had the Flag in a wooden box that was made from teak wood from the USS Intrepid. What we didn’t get back from the Major was the key to the box. So, when we got to Yankee Stadium and were informed that this was a BIG DEAL, and we had to get the Flag out of the box, I called Emergency Service Squad 4 and got Glenn O’Donnell on the phone. I told him what was going on, and asked him to bring a set of lock picks so we could open the box.

That day me and Steve Malagraph were doing pre tour overtime for the game.  We had the response car for the night and get a call from Joe Zogbi to respond to the stadium with a set of lock picks. We loaded up and shot down there and met up with him in the tunnel leading to the field.  We are standing there shooting the breeze when NYFD and EMS show up in full dress uniform. With them was someone from the Yankees and he tell us to give the Flag to them so that they could walk it out onto the field.  We all looked at each other and said, “Under no circumstance will this Flag go anywhere without us.”  Now remember, we are in our work uniforms and they are in full dress.  I tell the guy that our dress uniforms are in quarters, that we will go get them and be back in 20 minutes.  We tell him that whatever he wants we will get it done.  He stands there and says: Just go out there with them.”  –  Retired Detective Glenn O’Donnell

Glenn and his Steve arrived on the scene, got the box opened, and then stayed with us. Already there were NYCEMS and NYFD in full dress uniform, along with elements of the Military, Army and USMC Honor Guard. The EMS and FD personnel were in complete agreement with us, so we got everyone together and came up with a plan to present the Flag. The Marine Corps would form an Honor Guard around us, and the four E-Man along with Army, FD and EMS representatives would walk the Flag out onto the field. It was a windy day, and the Flag is quite large, so we needed everyone to keep the Flag from blowing us away.
     In a true team effort, we got the job done. I informed Chief Purtel of the success and he then “recommended” that the Flag be turned over to the Police Museum in Lower Manhattan. That’s where I left it a few days later, and I haven’t seen it since. **
     This was one of those moments in ESU that I will remember forever, the guys really did the right thing.  –  Joe
* “section §6. Time and occasions for display,” the U.S. Flag Code states that the American flag should not be flown in bad weather unless it’s an all-weather flag.
** Editors note: I last saw the Flag at the Funeral of Detective Luis Alvarez in June, 2019.