At Lincoln South Rotary Club on September 11 we heard from Roger Lempke on "9/11 - Shock, Awe, and Response". 

It was a day in history that we will never forget - 9-11-2001.

Lt. General Roger Lempke took us on a journey - starting with the days before 9-11. As we watched video clips we were reminded of how our lives changed forever on that fateful day.

(I will admit - it was hard to take notes and now to write this review as much of the story was our memories - what we each personally experienced.)

September 8, 2001 - we saw a video of the opening of the Nebraska vs. Notre Dame Football game. Those memories were sweet - especially without a football season this year. Though most of us did not remember, the final score was Nebraska 27 Notre Dame 10. And, the memories of that game would fade as the next few days unfolded.

September 10, 2001 - much of the news was about the low stock values. One reported commented on how things were pretty dull in the U.S. at the time. We saw a few video clips of newscasters as they broadcast as normal.

September 11, 2001 - 7:00 AM Eastern Time - all of the morning news shows were broadcasting with cheering crowds in the streets. We viewed a number of video clips as they discussed the economy - the declining stock market, Michael Jordan returning to basketball and Tracey Ullman's visible panty lines.

The front page of the Lincoln Journal Star included stories about:

  • Located bones may be tribes'
  • Tax-cut trade on the table
  • Kerrey, wife Paley welcome baby boy
  • Co-pays to rise for state employees
  • Thousands of kids victims of sex trade
  • Couple questioned in death held in Chicago

September 11, 2001 - 8:52 AM Eastern Time - every news station was interrupting with "reports unconfirmed" about an explosion at the World Trade Center. News clips . . . there was a great deal of confusion as they we heard from eye witnesses that thought it was a private plan - to a jet - to a missile. One person indicated it appeared to be an explosion from within as the windows were breaking out - glass and papers were flying out of the windows.

The sights - the sounds - the fear - the confusion could be felt as we watched and listed to news clips.

Then, while one witness was being interviewed the second plane hit the second tower. It became apparent that this was an attack on the United States.


Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was the man who broke the news of the Sept. 11 attacks to President Bush. At the time Bush was reading to elementary students at a Florida school. He had planned to return to Washington but there were reports of additional planned attacks on Washington. He was flown to Offutt Air Force Base and set up operations there.

Fighter jets were deployed to intercept any additional planes. It was chaos. There was concern for the protocols such as speeds beyond the sound barrier which is generally not allowed. They would was needed to protect our nation.

In Nebraska, General Lempke was challenged to put action plans in place. NEMA alerts were established which indicated the level of security needed in a variety of locations and facilities. Additional security was provided at the State Office Building, the State Capital and the Federal Office Building. National Guard Armories were closed and secured.

All airports needed to be secured. And, once they were reopened they would be required to put additional screening in place. There are 11 air ports in Nebraska that can service commercial airlines - all were required to increase security to the same level as we would see in Lincoln and Omaha. The other difficulty with the airports was parking. The new guidelines would not allow anyone to park close to the airport. For some that meant setting up remote parking lots such as in fields.

Victims with Nebraska Ties:

  • Leonard Catrianno - Omaha, World Trade Center
  • Michael Finnegan - Omaha, World Trade Center
  • Jarold Paskins - Omaha, World Trade Center
  • Julie Geis - Beaver Crossing, World Trade Center
  • Monty Hord - Central City, World Trade Center
  • Jennifer Dorsey-Howley (and unborn child) - Lincoln, World Trade Center
  • Tara Creamer - Omaha, AA Flight 11 that hit the World Trade Center
  • Navy Capt. Lawrence Getzfield - Elgin, Pentagon
  • Lt. Col. Gary Smith - Omaha, Pentagon

Roger indicated that preparing for this presentation had him recalling many things about that time and the weeks after:

  • Prompt and firm decisions had to be made at the National level and in Nebraska
  • Closing of the National Guard Armories was tough as many of those serve as Community Centers.
  • Other threats were discussed - nuclear power plants, agroterrorism
  • The airport accommodations were weird
  • Patriotism returned - and strengthened - in America
  • The Lincoln Journal Star published a special edition about the events of September 11, 2001 - the only time they have ever done that.
  • ​​​​​​​On November 14 his grandson was born


Lt Gen (NE, ret.) Roger Lempke retired in January 2020.  Prior to that he served as the Director for Military Affairs for Senator Deb Fischer and Senator Mike Johanns.  In this capacity he supported policy development and accomplished case work for military veterans.  As the former Adjutant General for Nebraska he organized and led the Nebraska National Guard through its largest mobilization since WWII in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 

Roger has served terms as president of the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska (BIANE), Nebraska Sports Council, and NEBRASKAland Foundation.
Roger was named the 2007 Nebraskan of Year by the Nebraska Rotary organization and honored as a Trailblazer by the NEBRASKAland Foundation in 2008.

Roger was born and raised in Tecumseh, Nebraska, and graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1969.  He and his wife Shirlee, also a Tecumseh native, have lived in Lincoln since 1979 and have two adult children, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild.