Friday, November 18, 2016

Softly Call

Let me tell you a story about Aggies.

They say from the outside in, you can't understand it. And it is true. Almost any university has a sense of school spirit, but there is something different about being an Aggie.



In 1999, I was a junior. I was struggling. I had been a straight A student in high school, and I rarely studied. Even my first year at A&M was mostly review since I had taken advanced courses as my electives as I finished my K-12 education.

But that fall, I was what my Dad calls "a good Aggie." I didn't drop my classes to avoid the blow to my GPA. I stuck to it, even when I knew I wasn't going to pass - even if I didn't miss a single question on the final exam. Why would I do that? I knew I was going to be retaking the classes and wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could do better the next time.

It was hard. I was having to learn to study. On the night of November 17-18 I was studying. I had a microbiology test coming. I was failing miserably in the lecture portion even though I was acing the labs.

One thing I had learned was that I'm easily distracted. So I would go to Evans library, immerse myself in the stacks, find one of those abandoned study carrels with the walls on three sides, plug in my portable CD player (usually with the Braveheart soundtrack spinning away) and block out the world around me.

That night, I was there until late trying to cram gram positive, gram negative, spirochete, bacillus, coccus, disease process, and carriers into my weary brain. I left to return to the duplex I shared with three other friends. I could have driven east from where the library sat near the center of campus, but I took a brief detour to pass stack. It was between 1 and 2 in the morning. There it was, brightly lit, students working 24 hours a day to prepare for our rivalry with t.u. A happy reminder that there is more to college than books.

The next morning, I awoke to tragedy that still rocks me to my core. Probably around the time I was finally falling asleep, stack fell. Students were being pulled from the huge logs that looked like so many matchsticks as the behemoth heap fell.

It has taken me nearly 17 years to learn that it is ok for me to grieve. I still struggle. I cried in the shower this morning, still fighting the guilt that I have no reason to weep. Anytime a helicopter passes overhead, I'm still taken back to the days following the fall. News choppers whirled overhead day and night and campus bristled with antennas as the country watched our personal tragedy like a spectacle, tut-tutting in their safe newsrooms about our traditions.

I didn't know any of the 12 who died personally. Someone from my microbiology class of 500 students was among the injured, but I couldn't have picked him out in a crowd. Only one of my fightin' Texas Aggie class of 2001 was among those who died, but I didn't know him. How could I be so upset? Get over it! It isn't personal Amanda! My microbiology professor perpetuated these feelings by holding the exam despite the fact that many of us were reeling. I failed two classes that semester.

But we are Aggies. The Aggies are we. When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. Even students today feel the weight of what happened nearly a lifetime ago. It is ok, even right, for me to grieve fellow fallen Aggies.

I have attended two other schools since my time at Texas A&M, but I'm telling you there is something about us Aggies. You might not understand it, and I can't explain it to you. But I'm proud to be a part of the Fightin' Texas Aggie class of '01 ... and when softly they call the muster for my fellow Aggies, I will proudly answer ...

HERE.

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