Wing Pin Found in Sept. 11 Rubble Returned to American Airlines

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    A piece of American Airlines memorabilia has been returned home more than 12 years after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Published Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014)

    More than 12 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a piece of American Airlines memorabilia has been returned home.

    After Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, crews were digging through the rubble when they found two pins. One, a pair of American Airlines flight attendant wings, another belonging to a flight attendant union.

    The owner of both pins was never identified.

    After finding the pins, they were turned over to the U.S. Government and a few years ago ended up at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Joan Cote, who works at the Delaware base, first noticed them.

    “Every time I go in there, I would look at the items and say, ‘I wonder who this belongs to and how it affected their life and family?’” said Cote.

    “And there’s a lot of items in the case and one tour I looked down and noticed there were a pair of wings and a pin and it said ‘American Airlines.’”

    For a year and a half Cote fought to return the pins to American Airlines, whose headquarters are in Fort Worth.

    Finally, she received the news.

    “They called me at my office and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, they’re being released and they’re being released to you,’” Cote said.

    Cote explained the day she brought them back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

    “I was just thinking, the last time they came to work was the day they died,” Cote said through tears.

    “When I got to the cockpit, I asked the crew, they obviously didn’t know what I was carrying, but I asked them if they would do their brothers and sisters the honor of carrying them home in the cockpit," Cote said. "So they took the wings and pin from me in the cockpit and they flew them back to Dallas. It was a pretty incredible journey.” 

    The wings and pin will now be displayed in American Airlines CR Smith Museum in Fort Worth.

    Cote said in some way it’s better not knowing who they belong to.

    “In some ways not knowing who they belong to specifically is probably a blessing because now they all own them," Cote said. "For the family members it's a symbol for them to hold onto and realize how hard they worked for American and I'm sure they were fighting all the way into the ground before they perished.”