Eleven years ago today I woke up to an unfamiliar voice on the radio. What was meant to serve as an alarm proved on that morning to be just that...alarming. A device delivering me unexpected and terrifying news, I was pretty certain I must have misheard. I shook myself awake and soon realized that nothing but the truth rested in what was said. And in hearing the words, I knew that I (along with thousands of other Aggies) would not rest well for quite some time after.
"The Bonfire stack has fallen. A number of students have been killed in the collapse, and crews are still working to rescue others that are trapped underneath."
Everyone on campus walked around in a daze that morning as emergency vehicles closed in and television crews began lining the campus. I had a class right beside the field where it was all happening. Being in such close proximity to the place where lives were lost mere hours before, and knowing that others were still underneath, ignited a feeling that only the heart could understand. And what happened in the days following the accident ignited a feeling that only those familiar with the heart and the 'Spirit of Aggieland' could ever understand.
Texas A&M. A school already so rich in tradition and bonded in spirit. It was what the Bonfire was all about, really. And it's just so, that the ones working throughout the night to build that Bonfire were some of the most loyal and proud Aggies one could find. And their efforts were a simple reflection of the love they had for their school. They believed in it. They suffered for it. They sacrificed for it.
Just a few weeks ago I revisited that exact spot, the place where the stack had fallen. There were no more sirens, no more television crews. Instead, a beautiful rememberance of the tradition and lives behind Bonfire--including the twelve that were lost that November day. A ring surrounds the site, connecting 12 portals. Each portal facing towards the perished individual's hometown and each portal honoring specific qualities and traits about the individual. It truly reveals the dedication and hearts of the ones involved.
It was my first time back since I graduated almost eight years ago, and I'm not sure I have ever been more proud of my school. I had a friend with me that day who is new to Texas. She didn't know too much about the school or the truth behind the accident. She admitted that she had heard brief news about the event, but had sadly misunderstood. She was quick to assume it was just some crazy kids building something for nothing. She never knew the history, purpose, or truth of what empowered these students to build such a thing. Nor had she realized the legacy and magnitude of impact that all of these students were leaving behind in doing so.
The Spirit of Aggieland "...a spirit that can ne'er be told. From the outside looking in you can't understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can't explain it"...a common saying in Aggieland.
I can't help but draw parallels to these Aggies and to followers of Jesus Christ, ones who know the Spirit of their Father. They do not work in vain, but give themselves fully to the work of the Lord. They believe in it. They suffer for it. They sacrifice for it. It seems that many of the students who died that day were just as dedicated to making the truth of His Spirit known as much as they were the Aggie Spirit. And the words I read about many of them told me they were vocal about it. And I love that. Because His is a Spirit worth knowing, and one that should make us want to build something lasting here on earth which reveals truth to ones who might not know otherwise. Our labor and efforts, a reflection of the love we have for Christ. And yes, I imagine from the outside looking in, it might seem a little crazy and hard to understand. But one thing I promise you...once you know it, you understand...and His is a Spirit inviting you in.