NEW YORK, NY – A U.S. flag that once flew over cleanup and recovery efforts at ground zero and was stolen from a Long Island home was finally returned to its rightful owner on Friday, reports WPIX.
Melissa Ielpi-Brengel, the sister of a firefighter killed on 9/11, woke up to discover the missing flag folded up and resting outside her home. The flag was also accompanied with a note simply stating, “I am sorry, I had no idea,” WPIX reported.
The American flag was presented to Ielpi-Brengel in memory of her 29-year-old brother Jonathan Ielpi, a member of the New York City Fire Department who was killed in the September 11 terror attacks.
“We put the flag out certain times of the year just to remember,” Ielpi-Brengel told WPIX.
Ielpi-Brenge was distraught when she discovered the flag, which was mounted outside her home, had gone missing a few days before the Fourth of July.
“There are other flags out, and for whatever reason they came here and took ours,” Ielpi-Brengel said to WPIX. “Coming on to my property and taking something that means so much to me and to so many Americans.”
The thought that someone would take something so symbolic of her brother’s bravery left Ielpi-Brengel unsettled, so she turned to social media, pleading for users to help her spread the word about the missing flag.
The stolen flag was more than just a memento to Ielpi-Brenge. It was given to her by the September 11th Families Association in honor of her brother’s sacrifice.
This isn’t the first time the family has endured heartache over a 9/11 tribute. Back in July 2013, Ielpi-Brengel was offended after watching an episode of “Princesses: Long Island,” where one of the cast members acted imprudently around a 9/11 tribute statue of her bother.
Thankfully, though, the flag was returned just in time for Fourth of July celebrations.
Ielpi-Brengel took to Facebook to share the news with her friends and family. She wrote, “Good news, our flag was returned this morning. It was outside the house when we woke up. Thank you all for spreading the word and help us get our flag back.”
In another post, she went on to write that she is glad that whoever took the flag was able to do the right thing by returning it.
“I don’t know who took it or why. I guess they had their reasons,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I also hope it taught them a lesson and they don’t try and pull something like this, with anyone, again.”
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia and Zachary Slater contributed to this report.
By Jareen Imam