The story of the NYSE flag

Images create lasting memories…some warm…some joyful…and some difficult.
The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. We can never forget the sacrifice so many people made that day…or the work of countless firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who climbed through that pile in the days after the attack, hoping to find one more person alive.
I will never forget the looks on their faces as I would see them every day.  Sorrow…shock…but also determination.
My team at the NYSE – Ray, Tony, Ian, Eileen and so many others — was absolutely amazing on 9/11, and in the days following.
The image of the flag on the façade of the Exchange has become part of New York; I have to believe it is one of the most photographed images in the City.
But how did the flag get there?
In the mid and late 1990’s, we began hanging “full façade” banners to celebrate listings and special events at the Exchange. Companies loved the photo op; we loved building our brand with some of the great brands we traded – Ford, McDonald’s, Coke, IBM, SAP, Kraft…and on and on.
On the morning of September 12th, as he and I were leaving the building to travel to a meeting of the member firms to assess their damages, Dick Grasso asked me to try and get a large flag to hang from the façade. “What do you think,” Dick asked. “Can we get something that big?”
Kathy Hynes, my partner who handled events, reached out to Howard Siegel at National Flag, the company that manufactured many of the banners we would hang on the façade for listing celebrations.
The first flag he came up with was little more than a photo image of a flag on a white banner. It had a large white border around it. Not perfect…but it worked.
Michael Ahern, with the help of the NYSE facilities team, hung the “banner flag” during the weekend of September 15th, in time for the September 17th reopening of the markets.
It worked for an interim period…but what came next was spectacular.
Kathy, Michael and our team came up with an idea. For the previous few years, we had wrapped the Exchange’s Corinthian columns in white lights to celebrate the holidays. Each year at our tree lighting ceremony, the switch would be tripped to light the tree…and façade in a single stroke.
In 2001, instead of hosting the routine tree lighting event, we invited the families of the 343 FDNY firefighters, 37 Port Authority Police officers, and 23 NYPD officers, who had been killed on 9/11, to an evening at the Exchange. Lee Greenwood joined us and…after some traditional holiday songs, Lee sang “God Bless the USA.” As the last note sounded, we hit the switch to light the tree…and – instead of white lights on the columns – the lights, in red, white and blue – painted a dramatic and beautiful “flag in lights” on the façade.
By the time the holidays ended, we were able to manufacture a full-sized actual flag for the façade. The team rigged it…and the rest is photographic history.
In the months following, we worked with the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police to recognize their departments’ courage – and that of the NYSE and the financial community – in a pair of television ads: This Bell and Success. And, one year later, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani helped us mark the one-year anniversary with another television spot, Everyday.
Now, 10 years later, the images and the sounds will bring back difficult memories for all of us. But I’ll also remember the way some of the best people I’ve ever worked with…and seen work…stepped up in the face of sadness…and did amazing, amazing jobs.
Posted by Bob Zito at 9/8/2011 12:45PM