I attended the University of Oregon, home of the Ducks. I have a great deal of pride in being an alumni of that school. I will always proudly wear the green and yellow. I will always cheer on my team, despite the fact that I haven't lived in Oregon for many years. I will always be excited when I see another person wearing an Oregon shirt or hat. It's a tie to my school, my family. The traditions, the mascot, the campus tie us all together and provide a common link and bond to an experience that can never be equaled or taken away from us.
This understanding of university family is what makes me pray tonight for the Texas A&M family. The Aggies are an interesting bunch. I am friends with several of them and they have more school spirit and pride than any other group I've ever known. Tonight, the Aggies mark 10 years since the collapse of the traditional bonfire that killed 12 students and injured many more.
Aggie bonfire had been a tradition at the school since 1909. You can learn more about bonfire by clicking this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggie_Bonfire. Suffice it to say that bonfire, like many other things at A&M, was steeped in a great deal of tradition and pride for the Aggies. Unfortunately, in addition to being a symbol of the strength of Aggie tradition, it also became a symbol of untold grief.
On November 18, 1999, at approximately 2:42 a.m., the 40-foot stack of 5000 logs that made up the bonfire collapsed, trapping and killing 12 students who had been working on the stack at the time. A day-long rescue effort ensued with the help of Aggies and several rescue teams from all over the state. University of Texas, the Aggies chief rival, joined in the effort to honor those who died in the construction of bonfire. Rivalries take second place to the human need to comfort those in mourning.
10 years have passed and the pain dims, but it will always remain. It is not something you get over, it is something you get used to. You continue to live your life, but always with the small hole in your heart honoring your family members who are no longer here to live their own lives. Tonight, I pray for the Aggie family as a whole and especially for those 12 who gave their lives doing something they loved - showing their pride in their school and their commitment to their University family.