Jeff Millman displays one of his commemorative Sept. 11 flags, the Flag of Honor, at Sisson Street Automotive, his auto repair shop. The flag lists the names of those who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks as of 2003, the year the flag was created.
Jeff Millman displays one of his commemorative Sept. 11 flags, the Flag of Honor, at Sisson Street Automotive, his auto repair shop. The flag lists the names of those who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks as of 2003, the year the flag was created. (Photo by Sarah Pastrana)

At 8:46 a.m. Sept. 11, Jeff Millman will hold a small but significant service at a flagpole in Mount Washington.

He will raise two rare flags, each bearing the names of all those who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, beginning at 8:46 a.m., he said.

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It's his way of commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in its totality, including the subsequent attacks on the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

"It was a big deal and it changed America," said Millman, 56, owner of an auto repair shop in Remington. "I think it should be a day of remembrance."

The Pikesville resident never served in the military.

He said he was too young to serve in the Vietnam War. But his father is a Korean War vet, and his father-in-law is a World War II veteran.

"I come from a family that served this country," he said.

Millman's story starts with the Mount Washington All Wars Veterans National Monument, a small park with a flagpole at Falls Road and Kelly Avenue, on the north side of the bridge.

Working across the street at an auto repair shop in the early 1990s, Millman was always impressed by it and by a World War II veteran he knew only as Cappy, who raised the flag every morning.

But one day, the flag wasn't there, and neither was Cappy. Millman later learned he had died. Millman, who grew up in the Mount Washington-Pikesville area, let it be known that he could take over, if anyone knew where the flag was.

In the spring of 1993, he was road-testing a car, and when he got back to the shop, there was a flag, folded neatly on his toolbox.

True to his word, Millman carried on Cappy's tradition and learned all about flag protocol, even making sure it flew to the right of the observer. He also successfully petitioned the state to add the site to its map of military monuments.

Eventually, a friend donated money to wire the flagpole for electricity, so the flag could stay up 24/7 and be lit at night. Protocol dictates that a flag, if it is flying, should be lit at night.

Millman also held small ceremonies on military holidays, such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and has continued to do so, even after he left the Falls Road shop and opened Sisson Street Automotive in 2001.

That's where Millman was on Sept. 11, 2001, listening to radio shock jock Howard Stern when he first heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center's twin towers.

He ran upstairs in the shop to watch the news on TV, then rushed to the flagpole in Mount Washington and lowered the flag to half-staff.

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Soon afterwards, Millman bought a limited-edition set of two flags designed by the artist John McDermott — one of only seven sets in the world, Millman said.

The Flag of Heroesbears the name of every emergency worker who died in the terrorist attack on New York on 9/11. The Flag of Honor bears the names of everyone else killed in the attacks. The Stars and Stripes serve as the background for both flags.

Millman added 9/11 to the dates of his remembrance services at the Mount Washington flagpole, and he has raised the flags each year since the first anniversary. A short service typically includes the Pledge of Allegiance.

The rest of the year, the two flags are mounted on the walls of his spacious, spic-and-span repair shop, at 2720 Sisson St., where classic rock plays and his two dogs and cat roam around. One flag hangs above a Route 66 map and a rim clamp machine. The other is next to a framed Led Zeppelin poster.

Tucked away in toolboxes are regular American flags that people have given him over the years.

Millman is happy to take the 9/11 flags down and lay them flat on request.

"This flag contains the names of the emergency services personnel who gave their lives to save others in the terrorist attacks of 9/11," states a caption at the bottom of the Flag of Heroes, which lists the names in tiny print within the stripes.

"Now and forever, it will represent their immortality. We shall never forget them," it says.

The Flag of Honor has similar copy and the names of all of the non-emergency workers who died. Millman squinted to read the first name, Barbara Arestegui, a flight attendant on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center), and the last name, Igor Zukelman, who had moved from his native Ukraine nine years earlier and worked in the trade center.

While Millman is proud of his flags and is passionate about observing 9/11, he said he tries not to make too big deal of the anniversary and doesn't publicize it. Only about a dozen people show up at the Mount Washington flagpole, he said..

"It's really just friends. I feel like I'm supposed to do this, not for any recognition. I'm sure I could advertise it and draw a huge crowd, but then it becomes about me."

He Millman sees what he does on a much smaller scale.

"It's just a way that I can do a little community service," he said.

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