PHOTOS: N.D. Capitol Sept. 11 event

BISMARCK—A mother who lost her daughter in the Twin Towers. A father still grieving a son killed in war. A police officer who reported for duty on his day off to help at ground zero.

North Dakotans whose lives changed after Sept. 11, 2001, shared their stories Sunday at the state Capitol on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against America.

Gov. Jack and Betsy Dalrymple hosted the event to remember those who died and to honor first responders and the military for their service.

“As a result of that dark day, our nation and world were forever changed and now, 10 years later, we reflect on the significance of 9/11 and how it has impacted all Americans,” the governor said. “No matter our age, gender, religion or ethnicity, we all emerged from that day as Americans, united in our desire to help others and to not only recover, but to rebuild an even stronger nation.”

More than 60 American flags were on display outside the Capitol prior to the event, carried by members of the North Dakota Patriot Guard. Their motorcycles lined the Capitol’s front drive— along with fire trucks, ambulances and police cars—as a few hundred people sat on the lawn to listen to the event’s speakers.

Lincoln, N.D., police officer Marcel Sim was a paramedic with the New York Police Department on Sept. 11, 2001. He was off duty that day but went to work anyway and worked for a week straight helping at ground zero.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said. “I’m a public servant and when the call goes out, we respond. That’s what we do.”

Jenette Nelson of Stanley, N.D., whose daughter Ann died in the World Trade Center, said each 9/11 family has a unique story to tell, but there are common threads among them all.

“We know that 3,000 people died that day, but the pain and anguish and sorrow of those who remain behind cannot be measured,” she said.

Nelson has worked to keep her daughter’s memory alive throughout the past 10 years and had a message for her daughter on Sunday.

“I’ve tried to share the terrible pain of losing you with those around me so that they will join me in an effort to eliminate hate, violence and war from the face of this earth,” she said. “I have tried because I know that this is what you would want to be your legacy.”

Paul Goodiron of Mandaree, N.D., whose son Nathan was killed while serving in Afghanistan, said the day was a chance for North Dakota to remember its fallen heroes.

“Today, North Dakota says their names aloud for all to hear,” he said. “Today, North Dakota resurrects the memories of those fallen soldiers. Though they lay in hallowed ground throughout North Dakota, the freedom we enjoy from their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., were also at the event. Both praised first responders and the military, particularly the North Dakotans who died while serving the country the past 10 years.

“As we remember today, let’s commit ourselves to remember every day, every day, those who put everything on the line, who made the ultimate sacrifice, for our freedom and for our liberty,” Hoeven said.

Sept. 11, 2001, took some of our innocence away but did not change what America is about, Berg said. The nation pledges allegiance to ideals of liberty and justice for all, he said.

“Physical attacks on America cannot stop these freedoms and this liberty and justice we have for all because it’s in each one of us,” he said.





























Read and watch the stories of four North Dakotans in the military and how Sept. 11, 2001, changed their lives here.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I put out a call for nominations of local heroes. I’ll return to your Ask Your Government questions next week, but thought it appropriate this week to run the hero responses.

Joel Martwick of Wahpeton, N.D.

Nominated by Travis Kjorsvik of Wahpeton.

“Joel is a local hero because he works for Richland County Communications and is always very helpful when the public calls. Joel always goes above and beyond of what is required of a 911 dispatcher when he takes a call. Whenever someone calls and they are overly excited, Joel always is able to get them calm and help them. He is also a former North Dakota state Telecommunicator of the Year.”

Linda Larson Engelman, of Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Nominated by Steve Larson of Detroit Lakes.

“Linda Larson Engelman presently lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where she and her husband retired, but lived in Mayville and Bismarck during her working years.

“I believe Linda deserves special recognition due to the many years she spent traveling the state of North Dakota, counseling the many military families whose husbands and wives were in Afghanistan, Iraq and other world hot spots standing between us and the many threats around the world.

“She worked tirelessly and without much personal ado, leaving her family to make sure that others had comfort in their time of need.”

Capt. John Gaffaney

Nominated by Michele Vannote of West Fargo.

(Edited for length.)

“I am writing to tell you about my local hero, who is my brother, Capt. John Gaffaney, formerly of Williston, N.D.

“(He) was killed on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, Texas. He died while completing his final training prior to deployment to Iraq. (In fact, he had arrived at Fort Hood just 16 hours prior to his death, which resulted from being shot at close range by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a psychiatrist who has been charged with murder of the 13 soldiers at Fort Hood.)

“USA Today carried a story in their November 23-24, 2009, edition, ‘Witnesses say reservist was a Fort Hood hero.’ … ‘Two eyewitnesses recounted how the reservist (Gaffaney) threw a folding chair and ‘tried to knock (Hasan) down or knock his gun down.’ … ‘soldiers were able to escape the gunman when Gaffaney confronted him.

“After 9/11, John was inspired to re-enter the military because he was compelled by an intense sense of duty and honor to his country and his fellow soldiers. He wanted to lend his knowledge and expertise to help in any way he could those who had suffered the emotional wounds of war.

“In his civilian work capacity, John was a county government employee employed by the San Diego County Adult Protective Services Department of Aging and Independent Services. John served seniors and persons with disabilities who were victims of abuse and neglect.

“Thank you for considering John as a person worthy of recognition as a North Dakota local hero. He loved his heritage and was truly a North Dakota ‘native son.’ “

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Sneak peak: The impact of 9/11 10 years later

DICKINSON, N.D. – Naomi Obrigewitch knew an hour after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that her life in Dickinson was about to change.

“It started to dawn on me that I have a husband in the military, and I truly believed right then, there and that day that it was going to become a reality that he was going to be involved in some way, shape or form,” she said during a recent interview at her home.

Despite being about 1,500 miles from New York City, the tragic events of 9/11 affected the lives of thousands of North Dakotans during the past 10 years.

The North Dakota National Guard has mobilized nearly 3,800 soldiers and more than 1,800 airmen in support of what’s been called the Global War on Terrorism.

A dozen soldiers with the North Dakota National Guard have been killed, as well as 12 other service members with North Dakota ties.

To honor their service and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, we visited with four North Dakotans in the military about how that day in history would go on to change their lives.


I began this project a month ago and crossed the state capturing the stories of North Dakota servicemen. Be sure to read The Forum, The Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun or The Dickinson Press this weekend to read the stories of these soldiers. 

Also go online to the newspaper websites to watch the documentaries and hear these men talk about how that day in history would go on to impact them.


If you’re interested in attending a Sept. 11 event, there are several being offered across the state. This includes a public event at the state Capitol starting at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Gov. Jack and first lady Betsy Dalrymple will host the ceremony on the Capitol steps and will honor members of North Dakota’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, military and families of the fallen, a news release said.  

Featured speakers include Lt. Col. Dean Eckmann, one of the three Happy Hooligans pilots who patrolled over the nation’s capital on September 11, 2001; Lincoln police officer Marcel Sim, who worked as a paramedic with the New York Police Department at Ground Zero on 9/11; Jenette Nelson, whose daughter, Ann, was killed in the north tower of the World Trade Center; and Paul Goodiron, whose son, Cpl. Nathan Goodiron, was killed in Afghanistan while supporting the Global War on Terrorism.

Also Sunday, an event will be offered at 11 a.m. CT at the International Peace Garden. 

Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Canadian Council General to the Midwest Martin Loken and Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg, will be among the officials participating in the ceremony.

Canadian Major-General Alain Parent is a special guest speaker. He was responsible for directing American and international flights into Canadian airports on Sept 11, 2001.

Former North Dakota Lt. Gov.and International Peace Garden board member Mrs. Rosemarie Myrdal will act as emcee for the event. Admission to the park will be free.

Sept. 11 anniversary event planned at N.D. Capitol

BISMARCK–An event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is planned at the state Capitol.

Gov. Jack and first lady Betsy Dalrymple will host a ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m. CT Sept. 11 on the Capitol steps.

The event will feature speakers, music and reflections of that fateful day and its significance to the state and nation, a news release said. Members of North Dakota’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, the military and families of the fallen will be honored.  

The public is invited to attend. Seating will be available, but people are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets, the release said. More detailed information regarding the program and speakers will be available soon. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be in the Capitol’s Memorial Hall.

VIDEO: National 9/11 Flag event honors North Dakota heroes

BISMARCK–One of the best parts of my job is covering stories that recognize North Dakotans for the work they do to make the state a better place.

Yesterday’s event at the state Capitol honored a dozen North Dakotans who have shown dedication to the military and public safety.

You can read the story and see the video here.


Here is the list of those honored:

Steve and Deb Kenner: Bismarck police Officer Steve Kenner was shot and killed last month while responding to a domestic violence call. He is the first Bismarck police officer killed in the line of duty and the first in North Dakota in 15 years.

Brad Jerome, Cody Trom, Jason Bullis and Noah Lindelow: The Bismarck police officers all responded to the same domestic violence call as Kenner that night. They were nominated for the courageous actions they took responding to the call.

Brian Benesh: The Dickinson veteran started a program called “Adopt a Vet” a few years ago and asks that anyone who goes to a cemetery on Memorial Day or Veterans Day puts a flower on a veteran’s grave so that no veteran is forgotten. For the past few years, he has gone to each cemetery in Dickinson to clean each veteran’s grave before Memorial Day. He then puts a flag at each grave.

Rosemary Fleck: The Bismarck woman sends packages to troops, as well as cards and letters. She raises money for postage and supplies, much of which she supplies herself.

Robert Arso: The Bismarck man came to North Dakota via the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Minot Air Force Base. He was a member of the North Dakota National Guard, serving as a battalion command sergeant major and acting brigade commander sergeant major for the 818th Medical Battalion in Operation Desert Storm. He has been teaching electronic technology since 1969 and is a department chairman at Bismarck State College.

Mark Haegele: The Bismarck man was deployed to Afghanistan with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion and was attached to the Eagle 4 snipers. He was clearing the way and stepped on an improvised explosive device in April. Both legs were amputated and his arms severely injured. He has been an inspiration for his determination to meet his platoon on legs when they come back in October.

Brad Volk: The Mandan man was instrumental in establishing the Patriot Guard Riders in the state and served as the first captain. Their mission has been to shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters. He has sent hundreds of care packages to our military overseas.

Major Ben Hinsperger: The Fargo native is a senior flight instructor and evaluator in the U.S. Air Force with more than 3,000 hours of flight time, including combat and combat support missions flown during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.


We’re interested in hearing about more local heroes across North Dakota. To nominate someone, please send the following:

1. The name and city of your nominee.

2. Why the nominee is a local hero.

3. Your name, your city and a way to contact you.

Send nominations to (subject: Local hero) or write Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 26.

Again, the full story about the National 9/11 Flag event and the video can be found here.

Happy Hooligans to be honored at Hometown Heroes Salute

News release from the North Dakota Air National Guard:

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,800 airmen have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This year, on the weekend of the anniversary of Sept. 11, the Happy Hooligans will honor many of these brave men and women during their first-ever “Hometown Heroes Salute” that will take place on Sept. 11 in Fargo and Sept. 12 in Minot.   

“Every day, we have airmen serving abroad, away from their loved ones, protecting our country, and because they often deploy in small numbers, we want to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve for their service,” Gov. John Hoeven said in a statement.  “The Hometown Heroes Salute is a great opportunity to honor these men and women and their families, and thank them for serving our state and nation.”   

In addition to Hoeven, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, and Col. Rick Gibney, 119th Wing commander, will speak at the Fargo ceremony on Sept. 11, which will be dedicated to honoring more than 300 North Dakota airmen and their families. 

 The following day, the Happy Hooligans will honor their Guardsmen from the Minot-based 219th Security Forces Squadron at Bud Ebert Park, Minot Air Force Base.  Thirteen airmen will be recognized during the event.  

“These Hometown Heroes Salute ceremonies are happening in conjunction with ‘Family Day’ events in Fargo and in Minot. This is fitting because not only are we honoring our airmen who have deployed, but we are also taking the time to thank the families who support these airmen. Without that strong support of the families, the airmen could not effectively do their mission. Every airman who is courageous enough to deploy and serve their country deserves to be recognized for their sacrifices,” Sprynczynatyk said.  

The airmen being recognized will receive an award for serving more than 30 consecutive days away from home station between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2008.