Tribute Flag

The Tribute Flag was carried aboard three flights that flew over the September 11 crash sites. The flag symbolically brought the victims home as it flew during the Dedication Ceremony at the Garden of Reflection on September 30, 2006.

The Tribute Flag was first flown over the World Trade Center by Captain Steve Verdi.  The flag was handed off to Major Sam Irvin who then flew the flag over the Pentagon.  Ultimately, the flag flew with Captain Pete Maniscalco over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Tribute Flag arrives at the Garden of Reflection, raised on the Memorial Flag Pole by the Honor Guard and is honored by Family Committee Members and the public.

Statement of Captain Steve Verdi

Statement of Major Sam Irvin

Statement of Captain Pete Maniscalco


Tribute Flag Journey

Part I of the Tribute Flag Journey

By Captain Steve Verdi


Captain Steve Verdi is handed the Flag by the Family Committee Ellen Saracini and Grace Godshalk, and Dedication committee members Valerie Mihalek and Lou Jammer. Major Sam Irvin is in attendance as well.

During preparations for the dedication of the Garden of Reflection, the official Pennsylvania 9-11 memorial located in Lower Makefield, it was suggested that it would be a fitting tribute if the flag that would be flown on the flagpole at the entrance to the Garden could be flown onboard airplanes over all three crash sites. As a pilot for American Airlines and more importantly a friend of Victor Saracini the Capt of United flight 175 on 9-11 I said I would be honored to try to accomplish the fly over. After several phone calls to coordinate with the proper authorities it was arranged that I would fly the flag on the first leg of its journey over Ground Zero onboard a regularly scheduled American Airlines flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Miami FL on Aug 26, 2006. The weather cooperated that morning and was cloudless and the visibility was excellent, with the flag sitting next to me on one of the cockpit jump seats we flew at a lower altitude that normal directly over Ground Zero in what I can only describe as a very emotional moment on a flight that I will never forget. It was an honor and a privilege to have made that flight and then to have handed the flag off to Maj. Sam Irvin for the flight over the Pentagon and Captain Pete Maniscalco for the flight over Shanksville PA.

Captain Steve Verdi American Airlines


Part II of the Tribute Flag Journey

By Major Sam Irvin


Major Sam Irvin receives the Flag.

On the evening of Aug 28, 2006 the 732d Airlift Squadron was executing a training mission to Richmond VA with a special route back to McGuire AFB NJ. On-board was a special eight foot by twelve foot American flag whose journey had already taken it over New York by American Airlines Capt Steve Verdi. I received the Flag in a ceremony at Don and Valerie Mihalek’s house just a couple of days prior, it was a humbling experience just to be asked to help with this part of the Garden of Reflection’s drive to be a reality. Although our friends and loved ones were not with us in body they were with us in spirit that evening, numerous emotions were present but the strongest was the fact we were helping the families and our friends who had lost so much. I remember vividly being said to me that we three friends of Victor Saracini: Steve Verdi, Pete Maniscalco and I were going to be responsible flying the flag to each of the tragic sights and flying the flag back to the Garden of Reflection for their loved ones to not only grieve but at some time be able to celebrate the fact they were now back home in Bucks County at the Garden. Tonight it was our honor to carry the special cargo on the second stop of its continuing journey. The flag was being flown in a C-17 which now was going to fly directly overhead of the Pentagon; we had received permission from air traffic control to execute the flyover that night. We entered Washington DC area from the South just about overhead of Mt Vernon coming up just west of the Potomac River and flew just slightly west of Washington Reagan Intl Airport, from there we flew directly overhead the Pentagon at 4000 feet and turned left at the Pentagon and flew overhead Arlington National Cemetery. From there we continued on our return to McGuire AFB landing just after midnight, making it Victor Saracini’s birthday. On this evening’s flight was Maj Mark Santilli, Maj Sam Irvin ???

Major Sam Irvin


Part III of its Journey

By Captain Pete Maniscalco


Captain Pete Maniscalco is handed the Flag by Major Sam Irvin. One board the flight were Ellen Saracini, Brielle Saracini, Captain Pete Maniscalco, Captain Steve Verdi and Cindy Maniscalco. Major Sam Irvin stayed behind.

"Some time in August of 2006 Ellen Saracini contacted me with a request to fly the "Garden of Reflection" flag on its final journey over the Shanksville, Pennsylvania 9/11 site. This was to take place prior to it being dedicated to the memorial. To say the least, I was honored. The flag, which had already been flown over the World Trade Center site, and the Pentagon, was "handed off" to me on September 14, 2006 at Mercer County Airport in Trenton, NJ by Major Sam Irvin. The passengers on my flight were to be Ellen Saracini, my wife Cindy, Captain Steven Verdi, Captain Sam Irvin, and Ellen's youngest daughter, Brielle. The aircraft used for the flight was our Piper single engine Comanche. Unfortunately we were only able to take five of the six intended passengers due to weight constraints. Sam Irvin graciously agreed to remain behind.

Upon Sam's "passing the flag" to me, we began our journey. While we were in contact with Air Traffic Control for the entire time, we did not provide them with specific details of our mission until being within 25 miles or so of Shanksville. At this point the controller handling our flight could not do enough for us. I was concerned that locating the site from the air would be much akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. However, ATC brought us right to it. I recall that flowers and American Flag banners, obviously left there after the anniversary service days before, were still at the location. It struck me that the site, although serene, seemed lonely and quite removed from the rest of the world, perhaps appropriately so. After completing several circuits over the site, we began our trip home.

As we neared Philadelphia I modified our flight path slightly so as to pass atop the Garden of Reflection, a fitting end to the flight. After landing we were greeted by a small entourage of television and newspaper reporters. Ellen and Brielle were being interviewed and I had a moment to take in the days events. It was only then that I was struck with a very strong feeling what all of us, Ellen, Cindy, Steve, Brielle, .....and Victor ....had just accomplished."

Captain Pete Maniscalco

The Garden of Reflection is supported through private funding and needs your assistance to exist. Your donation to the "Remembrance Fund" endowment will help preserve the integrity of this 9-11 Memorial in perpetuity so future generations will have a place to remember and honor those taken from us. In addition, a donation to the Garden's current maintenance will be greatly appreciated. The Garden of Reflection is a 501(c)3 non profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Photo Credits: Chris Yasinsac ~ Tommy Roche ~ Ellen Saracini ~ Jeff Goldberg ~ Brielle Saracini ~ Michael David ~ Liuba Lashchyk ~ Grace Godshalk ~ Joseph Walker ~ Don George ~ Wendy Brusca ~ Frank Pronesti, Heirloom Studio ~ Courier Times: Jay Crawford, David Planchet, Joe Dixon