The Avenue of 444 Flags Remembers America Held Hostage
American flags as far as the eye can see greet visitors as they enter America's Cemetary formerly known as Hillcrest Memorial Park in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. Originally they were the symbol of “America Held Hostage”. Today the Avenue of 444 Flags remains as a silent proclamation that our freedoms must never be taken for granted.
The story began on November 4, 1979, when an angry mob led by university students stormed the gates of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran and took 53 Americans hostage. Americans watched in disbelief as the days on the calendar turned and negotiations with the terrorists failed to secure their release.
As day 100 of the crisis approached Tom Flynn, owner of the cemetary decided he was tired of seeing the nation’s flag burned by Iranians on the, 6 0’Clock news. He was determined to do something to help Hermitage and the nation remember our hostages.
With the encouragement of local veteran’s organizations, flags poles donated by Wheatland Tube, help from unemployed steel workers and casket flags donated by families of veterans buried in Hillcrest, on February 11, 1980, an American flag was raised for each of the 100 days of captivity. Thus began the commitment to raise a new flag every day until the hostages were released.
After eight American servicemen lost their lives during the ill-fated rescue attempt in Iran on April 25, 1980, citizens from Scranton, PA raised funds to build a permanent monument in memory of these brave men and placed it on the Avenue of Flags. The 10 foot monument features an eagle with its wings spread, announcing hope and freedom. At the base is the Eternal Flame, lit by six former hostages when they returned to Hermitage to see the flags and dedicate the memorial on February 14, 1981.
The hostages were released on January 20, 1981 but the Avenue of 444 Flags lives on some 30 years later as a symbol of our freedoms, with lasting gratitude to our veterans for securing them.
The park is visited by people from all over the world and is open year round 24 hours a day, and admission is free. The flags are lighted at night and the front circle of the flags is lowered to half-staff any time the President declares a time of national mourning. An unforgettable story from the pages of American History.