Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bonfire Story

My friend, Jenn, said that she'd love to hear the bonfire story - so I thought that I'd share it with the blog world.

On November 18, 1999 things for the Aggie world changed forever. At about 2:30 AM one of the most beloved traditions on the A&M campus crashed down to the ground in a devastating pile of logs and bodies. I was still a student there at the time and remember vividly the day(s) surrounding that collapse. It was to be my last Bonfire as a student, and had always been a highlight of my Thanksgiving tradition... first with my family, then with my Aggie family.

For some during the days after the collapse - it seemed like such a silly tradition, but like they always say about A&M. "From the outside you can't understand it...from the inside looking out you can't explain it..."

Suddenly on that morning - A&M was the topic of every reporter and the messages being put out there weren't always correct or without personal opinion. That morning as I woke up - I found a link to a radio broadcast on the internet from Austin, TX. I can't remember the guy's name or the station in question, but at the time it was documented for anyone that wanted to respond. But, basically the guy was auditioning for a job and was making fun of A&M and what he called the idiot students. (refering to the students still trapped in the pile) He made a lot of very nasty comments about the situation, and I felt the need to write a letter to him and the station about my feelings on the subject.

At the time my main point was to explain that he had a responsibility to think about the entire audience that could potentially be listening to him that morning. Anyone could have been listening - a victim's family or friend... or just someone that was sensitive to the situation. Mainly I was appaulled that someone could talk that way about someone that was still missing and potentially dead - when that kid's mother or father could be listening. Can you imagine?

At any rate - the guy didn't get the job with the station because thousands of Aggie's had written or called to say similar things. I only know that he got fired because he emailed me really upset about having been "fired."

I never felt bad about my decision to write that morning because I felt like those kids needed more respect than that, and my community was going through a very scary ordeal - so we needed to know that we could take action wherever we could to at least feel like we were doing something to help. I think that I wrote letters all over the country in support or defense of the school that I love so deeply... not all were bad either... there were a few complimentary letters written thanking reporters for their balanced reporting.

Like I said, I will never forget that time in my life - At the time, I was the director for what would be the equivalent of a Prom for the senior class (it's called Ring Dance and is really 7 proms all in one event) so I felt a strong connection to other campus leaders - and desperately wanted to help in any way I could. I remember taking food and water to drop off locations for the volunteers working on pulling out survivors and bodies from the stack. I remember going to the vigil at Reed Arena and being surrounded by 15,000 others crying and looking for God to take away the pain. I remember flowers and funeral sprays covering the first floor of the MSC from all sorts of other colleges and friends of the university showing their support. I also remember the first time I walked out to the location of the collapse - there was heavy moving equipment all over and they were still removing all the logs and debris... and I just sobbed. I called John and just cried... I couldn't comprehend what had happened there.

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