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Special Rose Parade float honors 9/11 victims

December 27, 2010 12:15:32 AM PST
Thousands of volunteers were hard at work in Pasadena and Irwindale getting the floats ready for the 122nd Rose Parade Presented by Honda, but one float in particular is much more than just a float.

"It's a dream come true for me. This is something I've wanted to do for nine years," said Jerry Thomsen, a firefighter specialist.

When America was attacked more than nine years ago, a group of Los Angeles firefighters headed to Ground Zero to help, and Thomsen was among them. Now he and his L.A. firefighting buddies are honoring their fallen comrades in a uniquely Californian way.

"I've heard 'never forget' for a long time, and I think we've forgotten about our heroes that we lost," he said.

The front of the float honors the hijacked United 93 flight. The middle commemorates the Pentagon. The rear depicts New York City.

The float will be lined with roses, each of them with a different 9/11 victim's name on it. A fire hydrant found in the Ground Zero rubble will also be on the float.

Merill Mielke, who has worked on floats for 38 years, says this one is most special.

"It has a lot more meaning behind it. It's not just a beautiful thing. It's really bringing memories back," she said.

For Thomsen, the float's message, "Remember, Reflect, Renew," fits perfectly with the overall Rose Parade.

There was jubilation as hundreds of high school musicians from Pennsylvania arrived at the Continental Airlines terminal at LAX on Tuesday night.

In particular, they are members of the Downingtown East High School band, one of only a dozen marching bands in the country selected to perform in Saturday's Tournament of Roses Parade.

The 350 band members were bused to Newark on Monday where they were scheduled to catch their flights, but the blizzard conditions caused cancellations and almost shattered the hopes of the students. That was until the airline came through and rebooked them on flights this Tuesday evening.

"It's unbelievable to come to California and perform in front of 40 rows of people," said band member Ashley Brown.

The theme of the parade is "'Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories."

New Year's Day lineup on ABC7:

  • 5 a.m.: ABC7 Eyewitness News at 5am
  • 6 a.m.: ABC7 Eyewitness News at 6am
  • 7 a.m.: Good Morning America Weekend
  • 8 a.m.: Tournament of Roses Parade (See prep work for the Roses Parade)
  • 10 a.m. 2011 Outback Bowl: Florida Gators at Penn State Nittany Lions

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