Banner day for Saugus jake; Sews stitch on 9-11 flag

SAUGUS – Hours after terrorists destroyed New York’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Saugus firefighter Paul Penachio joined a convoy of rescue specialists headed for Ground Zero.For seven days and nights, Penachio’s team ? part of the Beverly-based Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) search-and-rescue unit known as Massachusetts Task Force 1, combed the rubble for fallen firefighters and police officers.On Thursday, Penachio and Saugus resident Fritz White were honored invitees to the flag-patching event at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers. Although White could not attend, Penachio represented himself, the town and the federally-sanctioned rescue team by adding a stitch to a massive American flag that flew at the World Trade Center until the attack.The flag was pulled from the mountain of debris, tattered and burned. It has since become known as the National 9/11 Flag and is the focus of a mission to carry the banner to all 50 states so that patches can be added by the men and women who participated in the rescue effort or by families of the fallen.The flag was hosted in Danvers because three St. John’s Prep graduates lost their lives in the bombing: George Ferguson III, Class of 1964, Raymond Metz ’82, and Sean Lynch ’85. Former St. John’s football coach James Trentini and his wife, Mary, were also among the victims. Ferguson’s wife, Mary, requested the New York says Thank You Foundation bring the flag to the school.The flag was flying from an office tower at 90 West St., in New York that was badly damaged. Ferguson died inside one of the building elevators. He was 54.Thursday’s indoor ceremony was highlighted by a color guard, and performances by the St. John’s Preparatory School Band and Choir.”The band played the National Anthem. With all the people there and the flag, which is about 30 feet long, hanging for everyone to see, it was quite a moving experience,” said Penachio. “Especially when they read aloud the names of the people nominated to take part.”Each nominee was asked to sign the official registry before adding a stitch to the flag. “The registry book will become part of the National Archives, along with the flag,” Penachio said. “It’s the same flag that flew over one of the buildings. It was all tattered when they recovered it. Now it goes from city to city in different states where relatives of those who were killed or those who somehow were involved in the rescue each get to do a stitch.”Penachio, who joined the Saugus Fire Department 18 years ago and serves as the town’s part-time director of emergency management, recalled how he and White spent a week amid the devastation.Both men are certified FEMA rescue specialists trained in structural collapse techniques. White, who works in the private sector, is the town’s deputy director of emergency management.”We both went down to New York on the day of the incident. We drove as part of a convoy and ended up at the Jarvis Center about two miles from Ground Zero, where we set up a staging area,” Penachio said. “Once we were on the rubble pile, we basically searched below ground, in the tunnels and subways and in the underground shopping center directly beneath the World Trade Center.”Penachio, a Saugus native who lives in town with his wife, Kris, and their three daughters, said Sept. 11, 2001 was the first time the FEMA team was activated for an emergency. “The Trade Center was the first big one. There have been others since then, including hurricanes in Florida. And we were slated to go to Haiti for the earthquakes. We had all our equipment ready to go and were about to get our shots when we learned there were no planes available.”Last summer, Penachio was also honored for his participation in the 9-11 rescue effort during a ceremony at the Boston Pops. “I met actors Morgan Freeman and Robert De Niro. I was introduced to them. They shook my hand and say thank you for your service,” said Penachio. “How many people can say they’ve met Morgan Fr

More Stories In News