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I first wrote about the "Pentagon" flag sale here. The whole story seemed convoluted to me and probably any one else who happened to read it. Summary: man sells questionable 9/11 artifact for money needed to cover expenses of his cancer treatment. I suspected the Washington Post was trying to create a story where one didn't exist. I didn't know the half of it.
Then I received an email from Tim Sumner. He's retired military, and he lost a brother-in-law at the World Trade Center that day. Tim had been quoted in the WaPo piece, and in my opinion (having since gained additional insight) the reporter had done a very poor job of relating Tim's contribution to the story. Tim wasn't happy with media coverage of the event at all - and rightfuly so.
At the time of our first communication, the flag had sold on ebay for over 300,000 dollars. But the buyer balked, and the item went back on the block. It sold for 25,000 this time - in large part due to efforts by the surviving family members of the victims of 9/11. The buyer then donated the flag - a dubious relic at best - to a local elementary school.
There's a story worth telling here, and it hasn't been told. (Oddly enough, like a recent memo story, this one involves ABC and the Washington Post too.) I asked Tim if he'd compile the whole story from his POV and he obliged. Here's Tim:
9/11 For Sale: Will America Let the Real and Phony Deals Continue?
by Timothy W. Sumner
David Nicholson just sold a flag for $25,000 he says flew on a crane at the Pentagon on 9/11. According to the original Washington Post report, Nicholson's father found it in a box of debris (one of ten) from the Pentagon crash site. In 2002, Peter Elliott, a construction supervisor for Facchina Construction, gave Nicholson those boxes and a certificate of authenticity for the flag yet he denied the flag was authentic when Nicholson put it up for auction on eBay. Elliott also asked Nicholson to return the certificate (not the flag) to him. This sale sent a message to the peddlers of America's history and con artists alike the markets are open and some will pay a lot of money for the real and fake artifacts of 9/11. It also sent a signal the mainstream media might even help push up their profits.
In its six reports on this sale, the Washington Post has not reported David Nicholson was convicted for grand theft in 1988 and sentenced to fifteen years for stealing $50,000 worth of sweaters. Local journalists were getting a different take and setting a different tone on him but the WP had already propped Nicholson up and the WP went silent until after the first sale closed on March 14, 2005. The WP never reported Orange County [VA] Sheriff C.G. Feldman has said, "his office has had dealings with Nicholson for the past 10 years, on which he did not elaborate, other than to say they were "nothing positive in nature.""
In their first report, the WP said, "Nicholson had the treasure framed in Plexiglas and turned down offers--one for as much as $100,000--to buy it. "Never" is when he intended to sell it, he said." The first report didn't indicate the general public--or even one 9/11 family member--was asked for their thoughts on this sale. Had the WP kept looking they might have learned folks in more than one state say Nicholson has been trying to sell that flag for at least 2 1/2 years. Some in his community who know him or have had dealings with him doubt if he is as sick as he says he is. And for a stage-four cancer patient he looks remarkably healthy. One doctor said it is a "miracle" that he is still alive. Ill or well, Nicholson is responsible for what he sells and the stories he tells in his promotions.
It wasn't long before ABC news, local TV stations, and newspapers around the country were echoing the Washington Post's sad story for if a mainstream heavy-weight like the WP says it, it must be true. After the March 10, 2005, ABC World News Tonight report aired, the high bid went from $56,000 to over $318,000 before midnight. Nicholson said he has stage-four renal cancer and a year ago he was told he had but three months to live. He said he was only selling his cherished flag to pay for experimental drugs that might prolong his life, leave a legacy for his six year old, and give something to cancer research.
The WP hasn't reported finding one photo among the thousands taken of the Pentagon on 9/11 showing a stationary crane was there that day. But they have Nicholson's story and he has an undated photo of a stationary crane in his display taken weeks or months later during the Pentagon's Phoenix Project. Nicholson's photo is apparently worth more to the WP than the actual photos taken on 9/11 and the time it takes to check the facts. On March 11, 2005, 9/11 family members told the WP Facchina had stated on its website they did not have a crane at the Pentagon on 9/11 and had informed eBay, on March 8, of this. The WP failed to report this until after the flag was sold the first time for $371,300.
When it came to asking eBay about the sale of this flag, again 9/11 family members did what journalists would not do. On March 11, 2005, Debra Burlingame, the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame III who was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, spoke with eBay's VP of Communications, Henry Gomez. She pointed out to him Facchina had asked eBay to "At a minimum...correct the item description and advise any bidders on the item that the Facchina Certificate of Authenticity is unauthorized and invalid." Mr Gomez replied to her, "eBay doesn't authenticate items sold on its web site" and eBay did not comply with Facchina's request for the duration of the flag's first sale. She informed him that Nicholson's display included the names of the 184 innocent victims at the Pentagon and aboard Flight 77 and none of their next of kin had authorized him to use those names. She added the unauthorized use of names within a sale violated both eBay's policy and California civil code 3344 and 3344.1. More 9/11 family members contacted both Nicholson and eBay and demanded that their lost loved ones' names be removed from his sale. Twice, Nicholson's flag was sold on eBay and the 184 names were never removed.
Nicholson's first auction showed a list of bidders and their contact information. A 9/11 family member contacted many of them and advised them of what the WP and eBay had not. The first sale closed with a top bid of $371,300 yet the top bidder declined to pay. He was quoted as saying, "the flag's a fake." Nicholson lamented, "The controversy really killed my auction," and added. "It would have brought a lot more." Virginia's Daily Progress reported Nicholson blamed "the controversy" which he termed ?very fishy? for scaring buyers off. He added, ?It would have brought in a million dollars.?
The WP still has hasn't reported the unauthorized use of a person's name in such sales violates California (where eBay's headquarters is located) law nor whether this practice is illegal in other states. The WP finally reported 9/11 family members opposed the sale of artifacts, real or phony, after the flag's first sale. On March 17, 2005, CNN reported Nicholson was using their loved one's name without permission and they even captured him on videotape saying, "Either it was there or it wasn't and I'd like to know the truth."
When Nicholson put his flag back up for auction, the bidders' identities and contact information were hidden on eBay. He told the Washington Post, "I said the flag was there on September 11, and no one has proved otherwise," and added "If the flag only brings $100,000, I'll be looking to Pete Elliot and Facchina for the balance."
On March 23, 2005, Firehouse.com News' Heather Caspi quoted eBay spokesman Hani Durzy as saying "9/11 items are high on our list of policies we don't want to see violated... eBay also discourages ads that imply something about an item in order to increase its value...The marketplace is remarkably self-regulating." Durzy added, "40 million items [are up] for sale on eBay at any given time, and about 4 million new items are listed each day. eBay officials don't check each ad before it goes online, but they do police the ads and listen to community feedback." Mr. Durzy's comments were made after a 9/11 family member called eBay and they removed an obviously fake FDNY firefighter's helmet from their web site. It was allegedly found in the debris of the WTC's North Tower and the starting bid was $10.000. It turns out a former Loudoun County, Virginia, firefighter was selling the helmet after he failed to return his equipment when he stopped volunteering before 9/11. He said he only put it on eBay as a joke. Firefighters didn't think it was a joke and they weren't laughing when they sent him some feedback [explicit language warning].
Nicholson's 9/11 sale spawned more attempted frauds and each "authentic piece of American history" came with a phony testimonial. An out of work construction worker tried to sell a rubber toy he allegedly found atop a building east of the WTC before Craig's List stopped his sale and the seller said "I needed the money, too." One lady tried to sell ("to help my ill mother") a shard of glass she said a firefighter coming from the WTC's Pile handed her as a memento. Her ad included a March 2002 pass to the viewer's stand overlooking Ground Zero. Another person tried to sell nothing more than a pile of rocks. eBay pulled the latter two sales from their web site when people complained.
Yet the real signal the floodgates of indifference were now ajar was sent up when John A. Andrews II, a businessman and member of the Loudoun County, VA, school board, paid Nicholson $25,000 for this con. Mr. Andrews said, "Whether it is [authentic] or not, down the road won't be important" and donated it to a school. He added, "It's symbolic of the sacrifice that people made...If it's going to be put anywhere, a school is one of the most appropriate places." Is it fitting for a flag sold with a debunked story, a "withdraw" piece of paper, and 184 illegally used names to be used to teach future generations about the day America was attacked? To me, displaying a flag tainted by this criminal's scheme in a school named in honor of two of the victims of 9/11 seems insulting so perhaps the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Superintendent ought to first ask their two widows what they think and feel about this before deciding to do so. Perhaps he should also ask this of the other families with a name of a loved one being displayed with that flag.
To the right is the photo on eBay of the flag David Nicholson sold. The 184 names of the innocent victims of the attack made upon the Pentagon are listed across the bottom. They are enclosed in Plexiglas along with the flag and a photo of a stationary crane. No one has indicated they have analyzed the substance that appears to have been splattered onto this flag. To me, it looks like grease yet I haven't seen this flag up close and I am not a forensic expert. You should know that nothing was found of some of the victims at the Pentagon crash site. Real or fake, the artifacts of 9/11 should not be morbidly displayed in our schools.
What is the harm of hidden buyers purchasing from public auctions and private sales the American flags that actually flew on 9/11 at those three Ground Zeroes? Hidden sales ensure that we will someday see those flags burned on terrorism TV. I cannot believe the America that stood as one and honored the 3,000 who fell will calmly watch while that happens. And what about the sale of debris and items pulled from the rubble? Those three plots of hallowed ground contain the remains of 3,000 people that we love and that terrorists murdered. The bones of our dead should not be picked over by human vultures and sold by those who's only rule is 'buyer beware.' Those who purchase such items--even those who do so because they see them as sacred or to keep them from being desecrated--only encourage others to sell what shouldn't be sold, real or fake.
America needs to set out a sign saying: the debris of 9/11 is not for sale. It also needs to say the artifacts of Shanksville, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center are America's and they must be respectfully preserved. If such sales are inevitable, what American battlefield, memorial, and hero's grave will be left undisturbed? The Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media must do their job and expose the peddlers of our history and those dealing in fraud, as well as their agents and auction houses who remain indifferent. Such sales are only inevitable if those we expect to monitor the floodgates of indifference leave them unattended.
The word "scoundrel" comes to mind. Also "there's one born ever second". Has anyone tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge on E-bay yet?Posted by Lucifer at April 2, 2005 03:16 PM
This would be a very sad commentary on what many people hold to be important in their lives. Yes, money is nice but so is respect and honor. I am a believer in capitalism but to be a well rounded human being one should not give away their moral principles for money. Obviously, this man Nicholson along with many of his ilk have no moral principles or respect for anyone. I think the law of "nature weeding out the stupid" is in dire need here.Posted by Toni at April 2, 2005 03:20 PM
This guy is a fraud no matter how you look at it. He's frauded before and he's done it again! He definitely does not look like a cancer patient. And what did he do with the money he did get? Did he donate it to cancer or spend it frivolously? Will there be any other legal action taken? I hope this guy does not get away with this. I have sons that may serve this country one day and this is a national travesty. I love my country and my sons. My sons have said they would like to be in the military and gladly defend it's countrymen. It makes me sick that some of those defended are men like Nicholson.Posted by nancy at April 26, 2005 07:41 PM
"THE LITTLE GOAT NAMED RESPECT"
You speak of the profiting from the events 9/11 and the outrage it has caused. The 911 Compensation Fund has paid out an average 1.7 to 2.1 million (based on which official report you read) to the victims of 911. The figures range from $250,000 to $6,800,000 per family. In addition to the 911 Compensation Fund of over 7 Billion, the world showed it's compassion by contributing over 3 billions more to numerous 911 funds. It's said that life is precious and by our own laws we are created equal. What respect was paid to the families of those that received $250,000 or even those that received 2 million in comparison to 6.8 million that was awarded. Why in their quest for respect, not demand all the funds be divided equally? Why is it that the "rich and powerful" again reap the higher awards? Is the family of a minimum wage worker with 2 children less important than a stock broker who makes $200,000 a year, bonus, stock incentives, and company life insurance high valued polices? Are these families aware the victims of the Oklahoma bombing victims received almost nothing! Do they know that almost 100 families from the Oklahoma bombing, which has been ten years now, are still financially devastated with little or no assistance? You speak of profiting and disrespect from someone selling an artifact of 911! I didn't know there was a value you can place on a "soul." What does the family of a miltary person that is killed in war receive? Something like $12,000 and half of it is taxed, what of their wives and childrens futures? A medal and a place in a memorial. You speak of "RESPECT."
> The money these families accepted was in a form of "hush money" not to seek the real truth of what happened that day. Why didn't they just except the billions that was donated by people all over the world and tell our government to keep their "hush money" and demand the real truth of 911 be uncovered! Instead of worrying about some guy selling a flag or a toy bus, why don't you use all that outrage and demand the truth. Better yet, show respect for each other, share all the funds equally, no matter what status they held in life. Then you can ask others to respect their wishes of not profiting from 911. How many families fought over their share of this money and what they felt they deserved? If I was a betting man, I'd bet there's more BMW's parked in their driveways, than flags flying on their houses! Remember 27,000 children strave to death EVERY single day in this world, isn't it ironic, millionaires were made from this terrible day of 911! Tell me everything I said is a "lie." You can't! Show me one person, of the 98% of the victims families who accepted the 911 Compensation Fund, who felt every human life lost that terrible morning, was beyond the sliding scale of the "Almightly Dollar." Can anyone of them that received the "higher" awards say their loved one was truly in the eyes of God more deserving than any other victim's family pain and sorrow and equally shared the award with the families of those that were given so much less! This was "hush money" to save the airlines, nothing more nothing less, the government has "Never" compensated any other act of terrorism in history! The new figures just released 36 billion in total 911 compensation, including donations, insurance policies, and government funds. The average award was 3.1 million and firefighter's 4.2 million only due to the over 500 million that was donated to the Firefighters Fund, now keep in mind some families received only $300,000. CBC News: 9/11 victims collect $38.1 billion US in compensation http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2004/11/08/compensation_041108.html
NO ONE WOULD DAM TO SPEAK OUT, BUT THE TRUTH IS, MANY ARE THINKING THESE EXACT THOUGHTS!