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Big Rig Honors Those Who Perished Sept. 11, 2001

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2004 – More often than not, as John Holmgren drives his big rig along the nation's roadways, he is greeted with honks, cheers and sometimes tears.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
John Holmgren's tractor-trailer honors those who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Courtesy photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

It is not Holmgren's driving that riles emotion. It's his message. The truck driver from Shafer, Minn., has transformed his 18-wheeler into a rolling memorial for the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's my way of showing that those who died aren't just a number," said Holmgren. "It's my way to say someone in America cares."

The rear of the trailer has a picture of the Pentagon and the names of those who died there that day. The truck's side features the American flag, the World Trade Center t6owers and the Statue of Liberty on a sky-blue background, along with doves and spiritual hands as well as the names of those who perished. The truck cab has a large mural of a New York City police officer embracing a young child.

Holmgren said the semi, still a work in progress, could not have been created without the help of his friend and designer Arlee Simpson and Paul Kosienski, a mural artist. Kosienski had painted a smaller memorial mural on one of Holmgren's older trucks.

One day Holmgren and Simpson were talking and putting some decals on the new truck when country singer Darryl Worley's song, "Have You Forgotten?" came on the radio.

"I said I thought it would be really cool if someone did a 9/11 truck," said Holmgren.

Two to three weeks later, he said, the notion became a long-term project.

Holmgren said he's just a "blue-collar guy, working paycheck-to-paycheck" and didn't have the money to get the project started. He said friends like Simpson saw what he wanted to do and took a chance. After the design was worked out on a computer, the images were transferred to the rig.

"I looked at the design on the computer several times, but when we started to put it on the truck it was totally different," said Holmgren. "That first day, it really hit me that what we were doing was important."

Although the project has cost tens of thousands of dollars and put Holmgren on what he calls the "I owe, I owe" plan, the trucker said he would do it all again.

"When people, even those who didn't lose a loved one, walk up to you with tears running down their face, I know that it has done what I wanted it to do," he said. "We have not forgotten."

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