McAllen first responders bow their heads in prayer during the 9/11 commemoration ceremony at the Veterans War Memorial of Texas on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McALLEN — Little was heard on the grounds of the Veterans War Memorial here Friday. It’s not as though there was no sound to be heard as bells tolled and lament was spoken to bowed heads, but the somber tone of this ceremony held that morning created a silence where everyone’s reverence for first responders and victims rested.

On this day, Sept. 9, 2022, two days away from the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, McAllen still remembered.

Standing straight with his right hand over his forehead, Juan Gloria, assistant fire chief at the McAllen Fire Department, honored those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

Many stood with their heads bowed as the sounds of the national anthem played solemnly in remembrance.

The city of McAllen held a commemorative 9/11 ceremony Friday in remembrance of the 2,996 people who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in the United Airlines Flight 93 crash on Sept. 11, 2001.

Among those who died were 72 law enforcement officers and 343 firefighters.

“From the perspective of the fire department, things have changed dramatically,” Gloria said, adding that first responders are ready to protect “this little piece of heaven.”

“The men and women of the McAllen Fire Department are prepared in things that we would never think we would have to prepare for but nevertheless, they are prepared, they’re ready,” Gloria added.

The chiefs for the McAllen police and fire departments shared their own personal insight on what the day means to them.

McAllen assistant fire chief Juan Gloria salutes during the playing of taps during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at the Veterans War Memorial of Texas on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

As McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez made his way to the podium a plane flew by to which he remarked, that even after 21 years, the sight of an airplane brought back reminders of the pain of that day.

Gloria, Rodriguez and resident Jacob Patino stood side by side as they took turns ringing the freedom bell. Each of them rang it three times, although outdoors the ringing felt as though it echoed throughout the memorial.

Rodriguez rang the bell for the police who died during the attack, Gloria for the firefighters who died while saving thousands on that day, and Patino for all the civilians who died during the attack.

Their words recalling 9/11’s impact serve a dual purpose of memorializing the events of that day and who was lost, and explaining the significance for those who were born after the attacks so that future generations are encouraged to continue observing the anniversary.

McAllen City Commissioner Victor “Seby” Haddad concurred.

“In the 21 years since that fateful day, our country has changed. Some of those changes were necessary to ensure our safety and that such an attack would not happen again,” Haddad said at the ceremony. “Other changes have made us more tolerant and aware of our surroundings and of anything suspicious.

“But one thing that has not changed, that will never change, is our love for this country and the proud and brave Americans who will stand up to defend her.”

McAllen will be holding another Sept. 11 ceremony at 9 a.m. Sunday at the McAllen Central Fire Station, located at 201 N. 21st St.