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Jerry Thomsen: A firefighter remembers

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Posted: September 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

It is very emotional for me, as I sit in my fire station, looking back on that tragic day. I remember getting up around 6:30 a.m. after a night of rescues, and making my way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.

As I was talking to the other engineer that was relieving me that day, my eyes were pulled to the TV as a special report came across. It was amazing to think that a plane would hit the World Trade Towers.

As the morning went on, the unthinkable feeling that our great nation was now under attack became reality. I was supposed to be getting off duty and heading home to take my wife to the doctor, as she was pregnant with our first son.

Over the loud speaker of the station came an announcement: all personnel in quarters will remain at the fire station.

 Three weeks later, I was on a plane with 10 of my brother firefighters from Santa Clarita headed to New York to do whatever we could to support and comfort our brothers from the FDNY, who lost so many. As we landed in New York and exited the plane, we were greeted with overwhelming applause. Yes, we were here to help out, support and comfort our firefighting brothers, but we were here also for the city of New York who lost so many they called heroes.

Those seven days we were there, attending funerals, visiting fire stations and standing on Ground Zero are days I will never forget.

The stories I heard from other firefighters and police officers were stories I forever hold in my heart, remembering those that were taken from us on that beginning of what was supposed to be another day in the Big Apple.

Standing in a fire station and talking about that day with other firefighters, I noticed a young boy talking to a firefighter in front on the fire engine.

As the young boy left, the station I walked over to the firemen and ask him about his conversation. He told me that this young boy would come by the station every day and show a picture of his dad, and asked if he has seen him. What an emotional story that was to hear.

The firemen then grabbed my arm and said that the hard part of that story was that his dad was an FDNY fireman.

Being back at my fire station and going on rescues, fires and emergency calls, I still think about that day and that young boy missing his dad. I wanted to do something to bring back the commitment we as Americans said we would do as we would “Never Forget” those heroes.

On Jan. 1, 2010, I was watching the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, and I thought of the best way to honor each and every man, woman and child we lost that day. To enter a tribute float that would honor each and every victim from the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and every flight that was hijacked, taking innocent lives.

On writing a letter to the Tournament of Roses and requesting information on entering this tribute float, I received my answer how I was to honor these brave heroes in an acceptance letter into the 2011 Rose Parade.

To be able to honor them on the first day of the year, and on the first day of the 10-year anniversary, was a dream come true.

Eleven months later, I was standing on the float with my wife and five float riders that were family members of loved one lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

These family members were filled with emotion going down Colorado Blvd. to a standing ovation for the next 5 1/2 miles of the parade. They were being honored as family members of lost heroes that we will never forget. This tribute float, with a theme of “Remember, Reflect, Renew,” made each and every person watching from California to New York and around the world know that we will stand in commitment to remember their sacrifice.

So, as you can see, Sept. 11, 2001, was very emotional for me. To honor each and every victim we lost that day, and to do it on the 10 year anniversary, is an (opportunity) I will hold close to my heart forever.

Jerry Thomsen is president of the Los Angeles County Firemen’s Benefit and Welfare Association.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise stated, the views and opinions expressed above are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily represent the views of The Signal.


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