A Time to Remember
Thursday, November 18, 1999. The day it all began. For me, at least.
I was dreaming of something. I don't quite remember who or what. All I know is that the image was shattered at 4 in the morning when the phone in my dorm rang, and my roommate Meredith picked it up and then handed it to me.
"It's someone named Michelle," she said. She hadn't been there long-she didn't know my family.
"Why is my sister calling me at four?" I thought as I took the phone.
"Bonfire collapsed," Meredith replied, pulling the covers over her head. "She's making sure you're okay."
Thus my college life for the next few days was shattered, broken by a few words.
At first, I was more in shock than anything else. The names I read off the Internet were blurs, meaningless scribbles and unknown faces. As the sun rose, the death toll climbed, and news stations blanketed their coverage, I biked to my class in a state of numbness, not sure how to analyze the situation. My biology lab was not canceled. My biology test was. As one of my classmates walked out of the room, he said, "I wish it had been canceled for a better reason."
"So do I," I whispered.
Soon as I signed onto one of the computers in the main center, I was hit on both sides—ICQ and AIM—by my best friend and her parents. My best friend Harlequin had even called my dorm, making sure I as well as the other GPMS Aggies were okay. Her parents had the same worries. I assured them I was okay, as well as my mom.
After I had totally processed what happened, I posted a message to every message board I was a member of—all of which are Pokémon related, but nevertheless relevant to those who I thought should know. When I checked them later, I saw that I had sympathizers everywhere, all asking if I was okay. Some even sent me Instant Messages and ICQ messages, asking if I was fine and had I been hurt. J-jay—a 29 year old friend in Illinois—immediately asked how I was the second he saw I was online. Jennifer—a 28-year-old—immediately sympathized. Even Courtney, Stephanie, Darci, and Scott, who haven't know me that long at all, checked on me to see how I was. People from Cali to Philly made sure me, a person they had never seen face to face, was okay.
All day, all I heard was the Bonfire. Meredith's friend was one among the dead. Too close for comfort. I needed my shell of shock to crack. But it wouldn't. The tears wouldn't start.
Friday, November 19, 1999. The day my shock ended.
I had gone to English, which was dull and uneventful. My poly-sci professor had cancelled class. I was still in shock. I had no idea how to break the absolute deadness I felt, that empty feeling that needed to be filled with the tears I couldn't cry at that moment.
I decided to go to the MSC, to see what was going on there. It was a somber, quiet place, much different than its normal hustle and bustle. Students were hugging, crying, and signing cards of memory. I left after a few minutes; not because I was bored, but because I was touched. Roses are everywhere on campus, poems have been written, and people take a moment to think of their fallen Aggies. I went back to my dorm and picked up the paper. On the front page of the Chronicle, Eagle, and Battalion was the same story. The collapse. The number dead. The hurt in the family of the ones who bleed maroon.
As I immersed myself silently in the stories, editorials, and reports, I felt my eyes water. A tear slipped down my cheek as I saw the photographs, on of which I took the idea to draw my sentiments on the whole event, the way I saw it through my freshman eyes. When I started reading the Eagle, and the quotes and words, it finally cracked. I burst into tears. I cried, on and off for what had to be an hour. Silently I leaned against the window, my eyes red and my vision fuzzy, as I clutched my Aggie bears Davey and Maggie to my chest, silently sending out prayers and asking why. I knew there were no answers. I did not want them. I cried for the ones I did not know and now would not, for the families, for the friends, for anyone who had ever known or seen the people I did not know. I wanted to cry, and so I did.
Finally I got up and went to my history class, eyes puffy.
My professor did not start off with our intended lecture. He started by telling us that his mother had called him, asking if he was okay. As the dead were accounted and the names given, he hoped none of them had been in this class. It was not to be.
There had been one. I know not his name, and I could not tell you which of those faces, frozen forever in time, was a member of the three-o-clock History 106 class. But together, the professor and our class of well over 200 students cried for our fallen Aggies. I lay my head on the desk and sobbed silently, tears flowing thickly as I ran my hands through my dark brown hair and begged no answers to unspoken questions. Silence hung over the class for a time before my professor told us that we were still having the lecture. To others, it might have seemed sort of cruel, to talk of the past when the present was on our minds. But distraction is not always a bad thing. I needed to get my mind off the tragedy, to stop, if only for that time, the tears I knew I would cry for days.
I went back to my dorm. I cried again, this time in private. Then I went to the lab again. I sat down, and I typed this. I had to get it out somehow, and my picture wasn't enough. So I did what I do best. I wrote.
I realize that I am not the best authority on what has gone on the past few days. I am not a reliable source. I am not as hurt as anyone who knew them personally. But we Aggies are a family. When one is hurting another Aggie is there. And when something like this happens, Aggies and non-Aggies all take a moment. As one editorial said, "that was the day we all stood as members of the 12th man." I pray for you, my fallen Aggies, and those who were injured but still live. And I will do so again, at Silver Taps.
Silver Taps is played to the west, the south, and the north.
But never to the east.
For the sun rises in the east.
And the sun shall never rise on the faces of those twelve Aggies again.
Written this 19th of November, 1999.