Members of the San Marcos Fire Department raise the flag that flew on that same day 18 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hundreds gathered this morning in front of San Marcos City Hall to remember and mourn those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

Nearly 3,000 people died on that fateful day as planes struck the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. A number of first responders have also since passed away from illnesses associated with the time they spent at Ground Zero.

The ceremony began with a brief welcome statement from Interim Assistant City Manager Stephanie Reyes. She said it’s important to remember those who perished on that day and the ideals they upheld and embodied.

“I’m reminded of the preciousness of life,” Reyes said. “We have great fortune to live in a democracy that values truth, representation and freedom of expression.”

For some, like Isaiah McCook, ROTC at Del Valle High School, this was a chance to gain an understanding of the importance of honoring those fallen heroes. He said he doesn’t have a familial connection to 9/11, but he still mourns those lost.

“It’s nice to see that after so long, we still have people that show up and mourn for the lost and fallen,” McCook said. “It’s nice to see our community hasn’t forgotten about them.”

After Reyes’ speech, a group of firefighters and policemen raised the very same flag that flew in San Marcos on Sept. 11, 2001 back up the flagpole to half staff.

Nate Dixon, a veteran of the U.S. Army and current San Marcos transportation employee, said he came out to support freedom and the loved ones of the victims.

“I’m just glad that people can support this and keep on it,” Dixon said. “This is going to be our 18th year and for everyone to keep it going, it means a lot.”

With the flag raised, the crowd was led in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following the pledge, San Marcos city employee Tammy Strakos stepped to the podium and performed an emotional rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Mayor Jane Hughson followed the anthem by reading a city proclamation marking today as 9/11 remembrance day. Mayor Hughson, reading the proclamation, said San Marcos and the nation are rededicating themselves to the principles of freedom and democracy in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and remembering the heroes that gave their lives.

“Whereas, the city of San Marcos is holding a brief remembrance on this day to honor the memories of the heroic civilians, firefighters, EMS personnel and police officers who died on Sept. 11, 2001,” Hughson said. “Now, therefore, I, by virtue of the authority vested in me as the Mayor of the City of San Marcos, do hereby proclaim Sept. 11, 2019 as 9/11 remembrance day.”

After the mayor’s presentation, Fire Chief Les Stephens read a brief history of the San Marcos fire bell in front of City Hall. Stephens said the tolling of the bell is a sign of honor and respect for all those firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Pablo Nieto, a San Marcos fireman, tolled the bell five measured times, paused, five more times, paused and finished with a final five. A fellow San Marcos firefighter then performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

The event came to a close as the mayor asked for any veterans in the crowd to raise their hands so the attendees could honor their service. The group of veterans were then first in line to lay a flower at the base of a small memorial, followed by the rest of those in attendance.

Police Lt. Dennis Gutierrez, public information officer of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, said the department will be participating in a number of commemorations around the county, and that they were thankful to have the opportunity to participate in the ceremony alongside the people of San Marcos. Gutierrez said he still remembers standing in the kitchen with his wife the day the day the towers came down.

“It was heartbreaking,” Gutierrez said. “We were stunned.”

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