Iconic 9/11 Photo Almost Rejected From Museum For Being Too American

Cortney O'Brien

7/30/2013 1:00:00 PM - Cortney O'Brien

It’s an inspiring image that perfectly displays American hope after the 9/11 terrorist attacks rattled our country’s resolve. Three firefighters looking to the sky as they raise an American flag above the rubble in Ground Zero. However, if curators from the 9/11 Memorial Museum had had their way, the ‘rah rah’ America photo would be nowhere in sight.

Author Elizabeth Greenspan, in her new book, Battle for Ground Zero, explains how the 9/11 museum’s creative director Michael Shulan opposed the famous Thomas E. Franklin photo, which has been compared to the ever recognizable World War II image Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. Greenspan quotes Shulan as follows,

I really believe that the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.”

Shulan made himself even clearer in an interview with the New York Post:

My concern, as it always was, is that we not reduce [9/11] down to something that was too simple, and in its simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event.”

Terrorists don’t like us. Terrorists attacked us. We are still unforgivably American. Seems simple to me.

Chief Curator Jan Ramirez shared Shulan’s “concern,” but eventually compromised on “minimizing” the image into three different photos with three different angles.

These curators can shrink the picture, but they can’t shrink the message it espouses. They may not want to admit it, but American patriotism is alive and well. How can we have a 9/11 Memorial Museum that doesn’t prominently display the American flag? Thank goodness the image is in some way represented, so we can not only reflect on the tragedy, but the patriotism that followed.

Franklin’s photo has been printed on 255 million ‘Heroes’ stamps and has raised over $10 million to aid 9/11 families and rescue workers, proving it’s certainly more than a photo. I say, ‘rah rah!’