Even after 18 years, the powerful emotions of 9/11 still smolder in the memories of many Victoria residents.

“This was one of those days where we all remember where we were,” said Victoria Mayor Rawley McCoy to a crowd of more than 100.

Wednesday morning, McCoy delivered the keynote speech at a 9/11 memorial service. Like others who spoke that morning, he began by remembering his own experiences on 9/11, recalling how coworkers had summoned him to the breakroom to watch the terrifying events of that morning on a 13-inch television.

“Then suddenly right there on the screen, a second plane was caught on camera, in real, time flying into the second tower,” he said, adding, “Our world had changed at that very moment even though none of us had realized it yet.”

With almost two decades past, that momentous and horrifying moment remains seared in the minds of many, including Victoria residents Melinda Salinas, 39, and Mary Aldrighetti, 65.

They attended the ceremony with children from their family who had learned about the 9/11 attacks in school and from parents.

Salinas, who was working in a long-distance call center that morning, remembered the worried voices of those desperate to reach friends and family.

“Nobody knew what was going on,” she said.

Aldrighetti, who was employed as a nurse, said she remembered the feelings of dread that pervaded that day.

“It was just a horrible feeling when you saw the first one and then the second one,” she said. “You just wanted to go home.”

But not everyone was able to go home.

In his address, Victoria County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Behrends said he was inspired by the bravery displayed by federal agents who suddenly arrived to protect government buildings near his office in Laredo on 9/11.

That unprompted action impressed and inspired Behrends enormously, he said.

“We didn’t call them. We didn’t ask them. They just came,” said Behrends, whose voice wavered with emotion.

McCoy, who appeared equally moved, also recognized the willing sacrifice displayed by first responders and peace officers on 9/11 and in the days since.

Standing before the ranks of police, deputies, firefighters and first responders at the ceremony, the mayor recognized that willing sacrifice and thanked them for it.

“When I look at each and every one of you in uniform this morning, I don’t know how I or the citizens of this community can thank you enough for what you do on a daily basis,” McCoy said. “You are the ones who bring order to our lives and to our society.”

Although he spoke about the undeniable courage required by the first responders who entered the burning World Trade Center towers to assist those “fleeing for their lives,” the mayor also thanked those who continue to serve every day in Victoria County.

“It is a mystery to me how all of you can summon such courage coupled with such compassion to do these things,” he said. “And you do it with the knowledge that it may cost you your very own lives.”

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.

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Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.

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