New memorial unveiled for UT Tower shooting victims

Silence...at 11:48 am: followed by taps...a stirring tribute to those who died 50 years before.
   
August 1, 1966 was another hot summer Monday.
   
Charles Whitman went to the top of the UT Tower armed with guns and ammo and started shooting.
   
Young Austin Police officer Ray Martinez had been told to go to the University to help divert traffic.  But he soon found himself on the way to the top of the tower to stop Whitman.

"I got on the elevator, said a prayer because I thought I might die," Martinez said.

Martinez, civilian Alan Crum and other officers like Houston McCoy raced to stop the threat.

Martinez remembers firing at the sniper.

"I kind of charged him, shooting as I went and hollering at McCoy to fire," he said.

Martinez says he emptied his pistol.  Whitman started going down but was still holding his weapon.

"I wasn't going to let him shoot me so I reached back, grabbed a shotgun from McCoy and I went and shot him one more time.  Once that was done, I waved the shotgun and I said 'We got him, I got him,' I don't even know what I said but anyway 'stop firing,'" Martinez said.

Martinez was in attendance at Monday's emotional Tower Garden re-dedication ceremony.  The University unveiled a brand new memorial listing the names of those killed.

UT President Gregory Fenves says it's long overdue.

"In the ensuing decades, there was an instinct to shield the University by not associating it with a singular crime...to not allow tragedy to define the tower, the central symbol of this institution," Fenves said.

Shooting victim Sandra Wilson met up with the man who saved her life...Chip Jansen.

"I saw her get shot.  I saw her go down like somebody hit her with a sledgehammer," Jansen said.

Wilson had spoken with Jansen by phone over the years but she hasn't seen him since 1966.

"I think the people who did the rescuing should get more commemoration because you know he saved me," Wilson said.

Rick Cloud was in a mechanical engineering class on August 1, 1966 when he saw the events unfold outside of the classroom window.

"I got home and they put his picture on the screen and went 'Oh my God...he was supposed to be sitting in the seat in front of me in class.'  So he could have just come to that class and shot all of us instead," Cloud said.

Cloud says he studied with Charles Whitman.

"He was a little different.  Preppy dresser, but he had extreme nail-biting...just very extreme.  That was the one thing I really remember about him," he said.

Claire Wilson was pregnant when Whitman's bullet struck her...killing her unborn child.

"My son Cirock says 'Mom, we'll get to raise that baby in heaven, I'll have a brother,'" Wilson said.

Wilson is the co-chair of the Texas Tower Memorial Committee.  She's been working to make this memorial happen for years.  She's glad there's finally a proper way to remember those who didn't survive.

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