From Broken Neck to Rose Parade
My Rosie The Riveter Story

Rusty Frank, 2014

My appearance as Rosie The Riveter in the 2014 Rose Parade had a deeper significance to me than anyone knew, and I really want to share the story with you.

As many of you know, back in 2000 Peter Flahiff and I were a dance team, and we had an accident where an aerial went "bad" and I dropped straight down from about 8ft to the ground directly on my head, breaking my neck in five places (C1, C2 in 3 places, and C6) and becoming paralyzed. Through swift action on Peter's part, a sensational paramedic (Keith Scott, pictured above), great doctors, and a community of fabulous swing dancers... I recovered.

Here's a short clip of the aerial done successfully by us (don't worry, it's not the accident),
so you can see the nature of how it could go wrong.


One month in the hospital, one month at home, and then four and a half more months all in the halo (6.5 months altogether), I realized early on that this was not something from which I was going to get through on my own.

It was not a matter of "I can do it," it was truly a matter of "We can do it!"

Everyone pitched in and helped me. They drove me, shopped for me, walked me, danced with me, laughed with me... carried me through that long haul.

"We can do it" and the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter became my sort of patron saint of recovery. I mounted the image on my halo brace to let the world know.

The fact that I got picked (by a very random set of circumstances) to play Rosie The Riveter in the 2014 Rose Parade, was amazing to me, because of this emotional history. During the parade itself, I was often so completely overwhelmed, it was difficult not to burst into tears. It's even hard for me to put this emotion into words right now.


And now... here is a video of that one minute and 46 seconds opening ceremonies


You can see by the attached pictures, the image surrounds me in and around my home. She is in my front window. In my back window. She is in my office. "She" The image of strength and "WE CAN DO IT."

I thank everyone who helped me back in 2000, and I thank all of you who sent notes, messages, texts, and phone calls of congratulations these past few days. I thank anyone who ever offers to carry anything for me (as the nerve damage from my cervical cord injury at C2 prevents me from being able to sustain strength in my arms), and Buddy the Wonder Dog, who has helped alleviate the ongoing pain I have from the accident (he has helped me almost completely get off pain meds... just the occasional Advil now... no more morphine -- hurrah).

I am overwhelmed and will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life.


Good friend, Steven Smith, filmed this conversation between Rusty and her paramedic, Keith Scott


Oh, and there is another phenomenal part of this story... 

The paramedic, Keith Scott, who showed up SAVED MY LIFE by doing everything right. He made sure I wasn't moved (for I surely would have died or been paralyzed for life), he made sure that I got to the right hospital and had the right care. Over the years I have tried to thank him. He always deflects my thanks, saying he was just doing his job. I feel like I haven't gotten through to him, and I needed to. Then it struck me one day (as in "It's A Wonderful Life") if I had died countless positive human stories would not have come to pass ~ the most compelling was people wouldn't have met and fallen in love and brought new life into this world. This story, the story of new life brought into this world, I realized, was something that might finally have him understand how significant it was for him to save this one life. I asked a few people, who met in my classes and at my dances, to film a little moment for Keith. Here it is.

Thank you, Keith, for saving my life, and giving new life!

I'll love you always,

Rusty Frank