At 2:42 this morning, I was sleeping safe and sound in my bed here in Dallas.
But I wish I could have been in College Station.
I wish I could have walked down the path to the Aggie Bonfire Memorial along with the others gathered there to remember the fallen 12 who were killed when the stack collapsed 11 years ago.
Has it really been that long?
I was not a student at Texas A&M when the accident occurred.
But my grandpa had always wanted to attend Texas A&M, and some of my favorite memories with him are of watching bonfire and the football games.
I remember seeing bonfire for the first time on TV — those weird dudes in overalls waving their arms around the yelling. What were they yelling about, I wondered.
Now, I know all the yells.
I’ve been to the football games.
I’ve even been to the “student” bonfire — an inadequate replacement for something that once symbolized the spirit and tradition of an amazing university.
I know a lot of you are not Aggies.
Heck, I’m sure a lot of you aren’t even Texans.
But there is truly something special about the traditions and spirit at Texas A&M.
I was never part of the official bonfire. Like I said — I wasn’t even a student when stack fell.
But I still feel the pain and heartache and loss of that day. I think that’s something every Aggie can identify with.
I was a student six years ago during the five-year anniversary.
I remember in one of my reporting classes (yes, I was a journalism major) conducting a phone interview with the mother of Jamie Lynn Hand, one of the 12 killed in the accident.
Tears come to my eyes as I remember that interview. It was probably one of the hardest I have ever had, and I had some tough ones.
It breaks my heart to think of Tim Kerlee, the 12th victim, who was at the top of the stack and refused to let rescue workers remove him from the rubble because he could see down into the stack to others who were injured.
He single-handedly saved dozens of students that night. And it cost him his life.
The next day, Tim succumbed to internal injuries that were not immediately treated due to his diligence in saving those around him.
This weekend, The Nerd and I are heading to College Station for the Nebraska football game. I’m excited to see the campus again and feel the spirit of Aggieland.
But today, I’ll be thinking about that night 11 years ago, and what it meant for the families of 11 students and a former student.
So take a moment today to say a prayer for those fallen Aggies.
They deserve it.