OPINION

From the Governor with Pete Ricketts

Nebraska City News-Press

Remembering 9/11. renewing our patriotism

Twenty years ago, the United States suffered the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  No one old enough to remember that day will ever forget it.  

It was surreal to watch the Twin Towers collapse and heartbreaking to see images of first responders covered head to toe in dust, searching through the debris in Manhattan.

The 9/11 attacks claimed 2,977 innocent lives.  The casualties included a number of individuals with ties to Nebraska. 

Jennifer Dorsey-Howley, a graduate of Lincoln Southeast, worked at Aon Corporation on the 92nd floor of the South Tower.  She was married and five months pregnant with her first child at the time of the attacks.

Julie Geis, a native of Beaver Crossing, played shortstop for the Husker softball team from 1976-1979 and earned her doctorate from UNL.  She worked for Aon Corporation and was on the 102nd floor of the South Tower.

Navy Captain Larry Getzfred of Elgin, a married father of two daughters, was on duty at Pentagon’s Navy Command Center.

Monte Hord of Central City was a UNL grad and married father of three.  A vice president for Cantor Fitzgerald, he was on the 104th floor of the North Tower.

Jerrold Paskins, a graduate of Omaha Central High School and UNO, was married with a son.  He had traveled to New York City from his home in California to conduct an insurance audit and was temporarily working out of the Twin Towers.

These are just a few of the men and women with Nebraska connections who perished on 9/11.  While mourning their loss, Nebraskans have kept their memories alive.  

Jennifer Dorsey-Howley’s family and friends generously donated funds to renovate the Lincoln Southeast High School Performing Arts Center, which is named in Jennifer’s honor.  

UNL retired the jersey of Julie Geis and gives an annual softball scholarship in her name each year.  

St. Boniface Catholic School in Elgin awards a scholarship in memory of Captain Larry Getzfred.  

Friends of Monte Hord spearheaded an effort to place a memorial clock in Central City as a tribute to him and to all of the victims of 9/11. 

In 2001, Columbus resident Dennis Hirschbrunner worked for a firm with connections to the City of New York’s Department of Sanitation.  He leveraged these relationships to get access to steel beams from the Twin Towers.  

A flatbed truck from Behlen Manufacturing Company hauled the beams back to Nebraska, where Jim Hellbusch at Duo Lift led a team that welded them together to create the Freedom Memorial at Pawnee Park. 

As terrible as 9/11 was, we also remember that day as an amazing display of American courage and bravery.  Firefighters heroically ran into the burning towers and up stairways to perform rescues.  

First responders selflessly tended to the wounded, even as they struggled to breathe themselves due to the clouds of dust and ash.  

Passengers on Flight 93 sacrificed their lives to prevent hijackers from flying the plane into the U.S. Capitol.  These stories of courage have become part of our collective memory, and they’ll inspire generations of Americans.

Joe Lemm was one of the Nebraskans who helped respond to the 9/11 tragedy.  Joe had played high school football in Beemer, graduated, and joined the Air Force.  After his service, he became an officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD).  

For weeks after 9/11, Lemm worked with his fellow NYPD officers, even when off duty, to dig through the rubble in search of survivors.

After 9/11, being one of New York’s finest wasn’t enough service for Joe.  He joined the Air National Guard.  In December 2015, on his third combat deployment, he was killed near Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber.  

His life displayed the highest ideals of what it means to be a Nebraskan—bravery, service, and sacrifice. 

On this anniversary of 9/11, we also remember all of the brave women and men who gave their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015-2021).  

This includes Marine Corporal Daegan Page, the 23-year-old Millard South graduate who died defending freedom last month in Kabul.  Daegan’s sacrifice, and the dedicated service of heroes like him, have prevented terrorists from perpetrating additional attacks on the United States.

We can’t let the tragic and disastrous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan overshadow the valor of our troops.  Their mission has not been in vain.  They’ve protected the U.S. and our allies, while rooting out terrorist networks across the globe.

The United States is the greatest nation on earth because of the dedication of those who bravely step up to protect our country.  Both at home and abroad, Americans make tremendous sacrifices in the interest of our national security and public safety.  

We’re blessed by the thousands of patriots—past and present—who have served in the Armed Forces, Homeland Security, national intelligence community, law enforcement, and as first responders.  The families of these courageous men and women serve alongside them and offer invaluable support.  

On Patriot Day, let’s express gratitude to our friends and neighbors who’ve served in these capacities.

Our greatness depends on our character and willingness to pull together to overcome challenges.  After 9/11, Americans came together as one to grieve, heal, and respond to our enemies.  

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, let’s remember that “united we stand” and renew our commitment to seek patriotic unity and to reach out to our neighbors to reestablish friendships that may have been lost.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244.

Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Govenor