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In advance of this evening's CNN original film "The Flag," on Tuesday guest host Wolf Blitzer welcomed former FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen.
The Commissioner of the FDNY on September 11, 2001, Von Essen offered insight into the memories from that day that remain ingrained in his mind:
"It was the enormity of I think - when we got there, you know, I came back that night and just started to see the people that were trying to help us with buckets. It reminded me of slaves building the pyramids thousands of years ago," Von Essen described on "Piers Morgan Live." "It was just something that until we could get heavy equipment in, which took awhile, the idea of rescuing people which was so important to us was very, very difficult because the stuff was just so heavy and so dense we couldn't move it."
The image of the American flag planted atop the ground zero rubble quickly became iconic, largely because the rescuers relied on the waving stars and stripes to provide them with optimism as they continued their laborious and heroic efforts:
"The first night we met with experts who said we'd find no one, that we wouldn't be able to rescue anybody because of the weight, because of the impact of the building collapsing. And we needed hope," Von Essen told Blitzer. "That picture came out, I think Thursday after September 11, so two days. It gave everybody a symbol that we're going to be there, that we're going to be there as long as was necessary and that we're going to rescue people if we could, and if not, we're going to try to do what was right, and recover the remains of not just our heroes but all the folks and innocents that died that day."
But nearly a dozen years later, where is that symbol of hope?
"It really is a mystery. I think it was probably an innocent mystery, probably removed by firefighters that didn't want to desecrate it or maybe there was a fire all around it, they were probably trying to just put fire out so they remove the flag, put it somewhere and it certainly wasn't a big priority, wasn't on anyone's mind at that time," he explained. "When you look at it now it seems in Congress that you could, you know, lose it but at that time it wasn't any kind of a priority."
For much more on the mystery surrounding the missing 9/11 American flag, be sure to watch CNN Film's "The Flag" tonight at 9.
As the Syrian civil war continues and the prospective role of the American military continues to be debated, on Tuesday evening guest host Wolf Blitzer invited Marvin Kalb and David Lesch to offer their insights on the ongoing situation in the Middle East.
"Really since World War II, one president after another has accumulated power, enormous, awesome power to take the country into war," explained Kalb, a journalist and former award-winning reporter for CBS News and NBC News. "This president is now asking the Congress to do what the Constitution had in mind from the very beginning...that means that congressmen, senators, House of Representatives, everybody has to make up his mind, has to make the decision and do it."
Lesch, meanwhile, attempted to place Syrian president Bashar al-Assad into perspective amongst some of the world's other tyrannical and violent leaders:
"If you compare somebody to [Adolf] Hitler, then that's the other worst comparison you can have, and therefore, trying to influence the debate on this in Congress, and in the polls on the American public," explained the professor and commentator on Middle East history and politics. "The problem with that is if you compare someone to Hitler or even Saddam Hussein, it's someone that you cannot accept, it's someone that you are compelled now to overthrow ... Many of us, inside and outside Syria hoped he would change the authoritarian system. It appears the authoritarian system changed him."