During cleanup at Ground Zero in New York, a construction superintendent sent a crew to take down the tattered remains of a 30-foot American flag across the street from the World Trade Center. In September 2008, Charlie Vitchers, now a coordinator for the New York Says Thank You Foundation, brought the flag to Greensburg to see if it could be restored, as a symbol of hope and resilience of the American spirit. With him came hundreds of volunteers who spent the 9/11 anniversary weekend helping rebuild the tornado-ravaged town.


During cleanup at Ground Zero in New York, a construction superintendent sent a crew to take down the tattered remains of a 30-foot American flag across the street from the World Trade Center. In September 2008, Charlie Vitchers, now a coordinator for the New York Says Thank You Foundation, brought the flag to Greensburg to see if it could be restored, as a symbol of hope and resilience of the American spirit. With him came hundreds of volunteers who spent the 9/11 anniversary weekend helping rebuild the tornado-ravaged town.

The flag will return to Greensburg this weekend, passing through Pratt in a Patriot Guard-escorted motorcade some time Friday. It can be seen in the opening ceremony of the Greensburg Rodeo at 8 p.m. tonight, and during the night, through the glass of the Kiowa County High School gymnasium, where area firefighters will stand vigil.

Everyone is invited to a “public stitching” and viewing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the school. An official ceremony will take place at 2 p.m., when selected veterans will place their stitches in the flag.

Being honored are World War II veterans Dr. W.R. Brenner, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, Layton Warn, who was at Pearl Harbor, and Lyle McVay, who fought at Utah Beach, along with Ed Daubar, a Korean War veteran and Earl Liggett and Gary Bartlett, Vietnam War veterans.

Mary Lou Schenk was one of dozens of Greensburg area residents who did the initial restoration in 2008, while the New York volunteers worked through the rain and mud to raise a barn at the Kiowa County Fairgrounds.

“It was in very rugged condition, almost rags,” Schenk recalled.

After deciding the flag needed a backing, Kathy Senst made a trip to Pratt to get all the muslin she could find. Old Glory was pinned on, to see what was missing. Several small flags — some presented to Greensburg residents as dedications and some that had flown in the pre-tornado town — were stitched on to fill missing areas.

It was an informal group, Schenk said. The announcement was made at church and anyone who wanted to sew could just show up at the Carriage House assisted living facility.

Working on the tattered flag “did pull at your heartstrings,” she said, and a closing ceremony of the NYSTY Foundation was very moving.

The Foundation has taken the flag on tour of all 50 states during the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack, mostly to communities that have experienced tragedies, allowing others to add their stitches as a symbol of healing.

Greensburg women will gather their sewing supplies again this weekend, with the goal of restoring the flag to its original 13-stripe format. Schenk isn’t sure what to expect, except that some stitches will have to come out and others put in. She understands that a seamstress from Iowa is “kind of the boss” of the whole process, so she and others will “wait for their instructions.”

The National 9/11 Flag will become a part of the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at the World Trade Center.