When driving on Interstate-95 through the town of Darien, passersby can see American flags proudly displayed on the overpasses on both Noroton Avenue and Old Kings Highway, hung by members of the Monuments and Ceremonies Commission and a private citizen respectively.

Phillip Kraft, the commission's chairman, replaced two weather-beaten flags on the Noroton Avenue overpass on Monday, Nov. 23, with the help of his colleague Dave Polett.

"Friday morning, I came out of Jake's and they weren't there," Kraft said. "So we looked, and we checked around, and son of a gun, Dave drove down onto the highway in both directions to see if someone had flung them off in some huge gesture of disrespect."

After inspecting the area around the flags, the duo found four cut zip ties, which had been holding the flags in place.

"Usually the weather gets them, or a corner gets loose, or it starts to flap a little more than they should," Kraft said. "Never have both disappeared at exactly the same moment. Even with high winds, that wouldn't have done it. The wind generally blows from one direction. What it would have taken to blow them both off perfectly does not occur in nature."

The town began displaying the flags after Sept. 11, 2001, when a private citizen made an anonymous donation of eight flags to then First Selectman Robert Harrel in what Kraft described as "an informal show of solidarity and patriotism to the many thousands of travelers and commuters who pass under these structures every day." Harrel and Kraft hung the first installation of flags together. In the years since this patriotic display began in Darien, Kraft said he has never had flags stolen or disrespected in the manner that occurred last week.

He suspects the flags were taken on Thanksgiving Day.

"My heart sank. I was outraged. Who steals flags? What do they gain?" he asked.

"I think someone decided, `Wouldn't it be cool to steal a couple flags?' and they probably threw them away, which is also sad," he said. "It's not an act of terrorism, but it's certainly stupid and highly disrespectful on so many levels -- theft, disrespect for the flag -- certain things should just be left alone," he said.