Anniversary Story

The Stars and Stripes

American flags painted on HITT building

Our pride for the red, white, and blue is on display daily, but never more so than in the wake of the September 11 attacks. On that fateful Tuesday, HITT team members reported for work at our project site at the Pentagon. When the plane hit, our employees were working both inside the building itself and in a trailer on the Pentagon grounds; our firm was shaken to the core. Gratefully, each and every HITT team member made it out safely that day, but our hearts ached knowing that so many didn’t.

Three days after the attack, Co-Presidents Brett Hitt and Jim Millar had an idea. “We wanted to do something that said ‘God bless America’,” shared Brett. “We felt a need to do something immediately, to show we stand behind our country.” They approached Vice President Jerry Orr, who oversaw the paint and service department at the time, and asked him to paint American flags on two sides of HITT’s Dorr Avenue office, including the side that faced Interstate 66—a road traversed by hundreds of thousands of drivers daily. Brett and Jim felt so strongly about showing their American pride in those dark days, that they instructed Jerry to paint over the building’s HITT signs in order to accomplish the goal.

After measuring and marking the dimensions for the flag on the building’s exterior, Jerry and Jim O’Brien, a now-retired paint superintendent, picked up plenty of red, white, and blue paint and scheduled a crew of painters to get started on the flags. A landscaping crew followed, removing some of the plantings to ensure each flag was fully visible. As the flag facing I-66 took shape, drivers on the highway began honking to show their support. “It was really an emotional time as an American,” Jerry recalled, “Typically paint jobs are paint jobs. This one left a mark on me.”

A week after the tragic events of 9-11, the flags were complete. In the days that followed, calls and notes flooded in thanking HITT for the show of patriotism; they continued to trickle in for years after. “We never really discussed taking the flags down when they were first painted,” Brett noted. “It became our calling card, but that was never our motivation.” We eventually outgrew the office on Dorr Avenue in Fairfax, and the building was slated to be demolished. Before demolition began though, our painters painted over the flags, ensuring it was a plain wall that was torn down and not the stars and stripes.