Residents join San Marcos officials, staff for 9/11 remembrance ceremony

A crowd of about 200 firefighters, police officers, city officials, residents and guests gathered Sept. 11 at San Marcos City Hall for the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.

San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero asked the participants to remember where they were when they first heard the news about the terrorist attacks.

"I know each and every year when we come forward to commemorate this day, that's one of the first things that goes through my mind, 'Where was I? What was I doing? What were the next steps that I took?'" Guerrero said.

The mayor said that no matter where a person was that day, the events continue to effect the lives of everyone in the nation.

"Whether you were in New York City or Pennsylvania or San Marcos, Texas, the ripple effects and the immediate impact of the events of that day have continued to stay with us and to change the way we react as a society," he said. "It's certainly impacted the way we come together as a community and the way in which we see our first responders every day, our active men and women in the military, as well as our veterans."

Guerrero was joined by city staff and councilmen Wayne Becak, Jude Prather, Ryan Thomason and John Thomiades; San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens; San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams; former Mayor Susan Narvaiz; and dozens of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services staff and residents for the ceremony.

The annual event has taken place every year since 2002 and includes members of the San Marcos Fire Department Honor Guard raising to half-staff the flag that flew over City Hall on Sept. 11, 2001.

Stephens explained to those gathered the significance of the bell-ringing portion of the ceremony.

"Throughout most of history, the lives of firefighters have been closely associated with the ringing of a bell. As they begin their hours of duty, it was a bell that started their day. Day and night a bell called them to fight fires [and] place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow man," Stephens said. "At the conclusion of the alarm, it was the bell that would signify that the call was complete and the units would be returning to quarters."

During the days of the telegraph, Stephens said, when a firefighter would die in the line of duty, a signal would go out wires—five measured dashes, a pause, another five measured dashes, another pause and finally five measured dashes.

"This became known as the tolling of the bell and was broadcast over all fire department telegraph circuits," he said. "This signal is a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

In recognition of the 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters who died at ground zero Sept. 11, 2001, and all other firefighters who have died in the line of duty, the bell a the front of City Hall was rung.

"They have completed their task, their duties well done. The bell rings in memory of and in tribute to their life and service," Stephens said.

The ringing of the bell was followed by a moment of silence and an invitation by the mayor for those gathered to add a red or white carnation to the city's 9/11 memorial wreath.