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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – Twenty-one years ago, the day after September 11, 2001, Richard Melito felt compelled to honor the lives lost in the worst attack on American soil in the history of this country. During this uncertain time, Melito says he put his pen to paper inside his restaurant Henrico and started drawing.

“And so, that’s how it all started, so we don’t forget,” Melito said. “On a napkin, I designed a flag that would be placed in my restaurant so that when people come in and look up they say ‘what is this’, and I say ‘this’ is how I remember 9/11.’″

And that’s how Melito says he wants others to remember it too. In the weeks that followed, the design eventually evolved into what is now the Flag of Freedom with an organization bearing its name in 2002.

After the flag was created in 2001, the Freedom Flag Foundation worked for years to have the flag used as a tool to teach people too young to remember or who weren’t yet born what happened on 9/11. September in a simple way. to understand.

Melito says he designed the flag with 10 key points in mind:

The five white bars represent the Pentagon attack and the two wide red stripes represent the Twin Towers. The top and bottom red stripes represent those who perished at the Pentagon, the crew of Flight 77, and the lives lost on United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

The three white stripes represent the rescuers, firefighters and police officers who worked tirelessly during and after 9/11. The white star represents all who have died in the name of freedom, while the blue background represents Americans united in freedom.

“It tells a very simple story,” Melito said.

“The symbol that Richard Melito drew had patriotic colors, it had the simplicity that it could resonate with all ages, and it’s just a symbol that has endured,” said foundation president John Riley.

Riley says that in 2018, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously adopted the flag to become the official symbol of 9/11 remembrance in the Commonwealth, the first state in the country to achieve such a milestone.

“The question has become what will happen if we go out of state?” Riley asked.

In August, the foundation got this answer. After years of effort by the foundation to carry the message of the symbol across the country, the governor of Oklahoma has also adopted the symbol as a flag of remembrance, which will be flown Friday through Sunday at celebration events. commemoration.

The foundation also announced that Delaware is also adopting the symbol this week for the 21st anniversary of 9/11.

“Now, 20 years later, we see that movement come to fruition with the adoption of the flag of freedom in other states.

Other states that have filed legislation include Kentucky and Minnesota, with Maryland, Alabama, California, Georgia and Ohio also expressing interest.

“To go to the middle of the country, to a place like Oklahoma thousands of miles away and see it, see the same welcome 21 years later now, and be embraced like in Virginia is proof of concept. And we believe it will eventually become the national symbol of remembrance,” Riley said.

Another vital part of the Freedom Flag Foundation’s efforts to continue pushing for the Freedom Flag to be the national symbol of 9/11 is the World Trade Center’s Steel Education Program.

The program is currently shared with more than 30 schools and partners across the country, including new school partners in Dalton, Georgia, Streetsboro, Ohio, and the Washington State School for the Blind, as well as the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

“It’s an easy way to teach something so serious that anyone can understand, and therefore eliminate a problem we had by the way we remember. We don’t need to forget” , Melito said.

The foundation wants all Virginians and people to fly this flag before the 21st anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday. If you wish to obtain a flag, the foundation indicates that there is still time to receive one before Sunday by visiting its website.