By Dan Hust
COCHECTON November 16, 2001 For a month and a half, it provided a patriotic flair to an otherwise colorless railroad bridge. At a sizeable 8 feet by 12 feet, the red bars, white stripes, white stars and blue background imprinted upon its fabric would flap noticeably in even gentle breezes sometimes whipped hard enough to end up on the railroad tracks until passersby flipped it back down.
But on November 3, someone decided they wanted an American flag the one hanging over County Route 114 in Cochecton and, under cover of darkness, they stole it.
Now only remnants of those colors remain in bits and pieces of cloth that stayed in place after the thief ripped the flag away from its anchors.
The case of a flag being stolen is not new to the county since the tragic events of September 11. Local police departments say theyve handled at least one or two over the past few weeks, when flags have been out in full force and buying one can be a waiting game. (Fallsburg PD, in fact, said theyve had nearly a dozen complaints.)
Finding the perpetrators, however, has been problematic, because as one officer put it, theyre dealing with an item that looks exactly the same as all the rest. Even size is not an accurate indicator, unless there are some sort of identifying marks on the flag (and there usually arent).
Regardless, the effect on owners is still the same: shock, depression, anger, despair, and the big question why?
I dont know why theyd want to do that, lamented Bob White of Cochecton, a member of the local mens club and the fire department, which put up the now-gone flag. What are they going to do with it?
The flag, said White, was donated years ago to the Cochecton Fire Department and once flew over the state or U.S. Capitol, though White wasnt sure which.
The community groups are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the theft. The Sullivan County Sheriffs Dept. is doing the investigation, so those with info can call them at 794-7100.
In the meantime, a new 5x9 flag is in the spot formerly occupied by its larger predecessor, and White is angrily hoping that the thief or thieves do not return.
Youre some patriotic American if youve got to steal a flag, he commented.