A retired New York City cop and firefighter who helped pull people from the wreckage after the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 will now be allowed to fly a commemorative flag in front of his home, ending a one-week battle with his homeowner's association.
"I am really shocked," said Richard Wentz, who seemed nearly speechless after hearing the news this afternoon from ABCNews.com.
He was initially warned by his Florida homeowner's association to remove flag or be fined. Wentz's Coral Springs, Fla., neighborhood allows homes to display one flag, but Wentz has two: an American flag and a flag with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died during the worst terrorist attack in American history.
"It's not even about me. It's about the people who died that day and their families," said Wentz, 47. "They need to be remembered, not just one day of the year."
Wentz was prepared to pay a fine that could have been as much as $1,000. But today ABCNews.com received a call from Bill Sugarman, president of Benchmark Property Management, the company that manages Wentz's subdivision. He said Benchmark asked the homeowner's association to review their policies
"They have concluded it's not their obligation to enforce the 'one flag' rule. Therefore, Mr. Wentz will be permitted to fly his flag," Sugarman said. "It's really not their duty to encourage that restriction."
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As a result, he said, "They won't be taking any enforcement action."
Wentz had bought the flag from Walmart to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Exactly two months later, Wentz received a letter stating he had 10 days to take down the flag. He planned to approach the association with a compromise: he would rotate the flags. One week he would display the American flag, and the next week he would display the 9/11 flag.
But last Wednesday, Wentz said, well before the 10-day time period would end, the president of the homeowner's association confronted him in his driveway.
"She kind of got in my face and said that flag needs to come down and it needs to come down now," Wentz recalled.
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"It's a hard choice. Which one do you take down? One that represents our country, or the one that represents the people who died that day?"
Wentz's neighbors didn't appear to be bothered by either.
Irene Skulsky, a neighbor who spoke with WPLG, said, "He was involved in 9/11. I think he deserves to have the flag up there. What he went through and what he's still going through? I think it's an honor in our neighborhood to have the flag up."
Wentz told ABCNews.com he recently received a letter of support from another neighbor, who expressed sympathy for his predicament. In fact, he hadn't heard a negative word from anyone, he says, except for the homeowner association.
Wentz, a veteran of both the New York police and fire departments, retired after 20 years and moved to Florida in 2005. On 9/11, he told ABCNews.com, he lost 43 friends and he says he wants the flag to keep memories of the fallen alive.
"I fly it not just for my friends who were killed that day, but for the families, and the voices who can't speak anymore," he said.