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A float to remember

Community: Local firefighter’s submission will be part of the 2011 Rose Parade

Posted: July 11, 2010 9:32 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Firefighter Jerry Thomsen displays an artist’s conception of his 2011 Rose Parade float submission. The float’s theme is Remember, Reflect and Renew — “To remember as a nation what we went through,” Thomsen said. “To reflect on where we’ve come from tragedy and to renew our patriotism again; renewing a new bond.”

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Two words lingered in the back of Jerry Thomsen’s head for almost 10 years.

Never forget.

When the Los Angeles County fire specialist descended upon New York to lend emotional support to fire crews and residents just weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, he heard people repeat over and over those two words following the terrorist attacks that killed close to 3,000 people.

“Anytime there was a funeral in New York, the streets were filled up,” he said. “The two words I always heard when I was back there were ‘never forget.’”

Thomsen traveled back to his Agua Dulce home, wondering what he could do to keep New York uplifted and to continue to honor the heroes of 9/11.

He finally got his answer on Jan. 1 of this year as he watched the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. Thomsen decided to design a parade float.

The Tournament of Roses has accepted Thomsen’s proposed design for a “Never Forget 9/11” float for the 2011 parade, leading into the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

“I feel privileged and honored that they let me have this in,” said the 53-year-old.

 The float will be the second to commemorate 9/11 in the Rose Parade; the first appeared in 2004, said Vanessa Flores, public information manager for the Tournament of Roses.

The float’s theme is Remember, Reflect and Renew — “To remember as a nation what we went through,” he said. “To reflect on where we’ve come from tragedy and to renew our patriotism again; renewing a new bond.”

‘America’s float’
Thomsen is a rookie when it comes to float design but he had a vision. He wanted to pay tribute to first responders who
answered the call of duty on 9/11 and he enlisted the help of Charisma Floats & Designs to complete the final design.

“We want people who are sitting on the parade route to stop for that two or three seconds of silence, look and pay tribute,” said Thomsen, who works out of Fire Station 126 in Valencia.

Different areas of the float will symbolize the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93.

Instead of a picture of the Twin Towers, a flower mural will depict the image of three firefighters raising the U.S. flag over Ground Zero. The image captured by news photographer Thomas E. Franklin on Sept. 11.

“It showed that we have gone through tragedy, but we’ll overcome it,” Thomsen said.

A fire hydrant will protrude straight up from the base of a pentagon at the center of the float. 

“The fire hydrant was found underneath the World Trade Center after they pulled the rubble away,” Thomsen said.

Thomsen wants the float to be centered on those who risked or lost their lives on 9/11. He has contacted the New York police and fire departments and Port Authority Police. He hopes for the participation of some family members who lost loved ones.

“It’s all going to be (focused) on people we need to uplift,” he said. “We’re trying to make this America’s float.”

He’ll never forget

Thomsen wishes for the community to be a part of the float through sponsorship and donations.

Those who make a $5 donation have the opportunity to put their name and message in a flower vial.

Roses will be used just about everywhere, Thomsen said.

“We want to make sure we do this right,” he said.

Any contributions raised beyond the cost of the float will be presented to benefit charities of future families of the first responders injured or lost.

Seeing a dream evolve into reality has been surreal, Thomsen said.

“Once we got it going, it became very emotional,” he said. “This is an honor.”

Thomsen said he will never forget the bonding that he witnessed while he was in New York.

“It was neat seeing how the state of New York came together,” he said. “It took an unfortunate event for everyone to come together and bond – and to never forget.”


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