Weekly Column

On September 11, 2001, America suffered a series of terrible losses. Some lost offices or jobs when the Twin Towers came crashing down. Some lost a sense of safety and security as we watched buildings crumble on TV. Most tragically, many of us lost dear friends or family members to these atrocious attacks on our nation.

Nebraska was no stranger to the widespread suffering caused by 9/11. Some of our own were lost that day, and we remember them on this 22nd anniversary of the attacks.

Navy Capt. Larry Getzfred of Elgin was serving as the senior watch officer in the Pentagon’s Navy Command Center when the building he was in was hit. Julie Geis of Beaver Crossing, a former softball player for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was working in the World Trade Center that fateful day. Fellow UNL graduate Monte Hord, a Central City native, was at the World Trade Center as well, along with University of Nebraska-Omaha graduate Jerrold Paskins. Jennifer Dorsey Howley, a graduate of my own Lincoln Southeast High School, was working in the World Trade Center and expecting her first child at the time of the attacks. Today is a day to remember these Nebraskans and reflect on the lives which were tragically cut too short.

As we mourn those who died in the attacks, we also honor the many men and women who risked or sacrificed their lives to protect others that day. The 9/11 attacks caused more law enforcement officer deaths than any other single incident in our country’s history. The Officer Down Memorial Page counts almost 500 officers from 10 different agencies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia who have passed away as a direct result of 9/11.

In New York City alone, the New York City Fire Department deployed half its personnel to the World Trade Center, and the New York City Police Department sent Emergency Service Units and other personnel to respond. These heroes were joined by off-duty first responders who selflessly stepped in during a time of need.

U.S. Strategic Command, based in Nebraska, played a critical role that day as well. STRATCOM officials watched the attacks with the same shock and horror as the rest of us — but then they jumped into action. Within hours of the first attack, President George W. Bush arrived at Offutt Air Force Base. From underground command centers, STRATCOM officials provided President Bush with the information he needed to respond to the horrific events of that day.

The valiant self-sacrifice of all these individuals should be acknowledged. Every day in America, hundreds more officers follow in their footsteps by working jobs that put their lives at risk to preserve the lives of others. These men and women demonstrate the meaning of patriotism: placing the good of their country, community, and neighbor above themselves.

As Americans and Nebraskans, we lost many precious things on September 11 — the most precious of all being the lives of friends and family. I know that along with these losses, we have gained new perspectives. As we mourn our losses, we hug our loved ones a little tighter. We show more honor and appreciation for the men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe. And we remember the gift it is to live in this great country.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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