Yes my friends, the Christmas tree is UP! That was my creative project for last week...
NaBloWriMo: Day 24
NaBloWriMo: Day 23
And then I cried. For the first time, it hit me, and was real. And I still cry when I think about it, or when I talk about it. The sorrow of Bonfire was to the Aggie Family what 9-11 was to the nation - it was the most horrific thing we could have ever imagined.
In the days and weeks that followed, I attended the Bonfire Memorial on Thanksgiving night, the night Bonfire should have burned, followed by Yell Practice, where instead of having a Yell Practice, people lit their candles again instead, and Kyle Field was filled with candle light - it was breathtakingly beautiful. And I attended the game against UT the next day, where the Aggies prevailed (Baumgartner caught that crazy pass right in front of the section we were sitting in) and the Longhorn band's tribute was one of the classiest and moving tributes I have seen. Maybe their response to our tragedy is the reason that, even though they are our rivals, I still have such respect for the school as a whole... There is now a Bonfire Memorial built on the polo fields. I went to the dedication, and then a few years ago, finally mustered the strength to walk through it on my own - they did a beautiful job capturing what Bonfire was about, as well as the lives of the 12 that we lost.
Below are a few videos, links and stories that shed a little more light on this event in case your interested. I'll close with a few lines that took on profound meaning in the days that followed the collapse...
Some may boast of prowess bold
Of the school they think so grand
But there's a spirit can ne'er be told
It's the Spirit of Aggieland.
Timothy Kerlee Jr.
Nathan Scott West
The Twelfth Man
by Fred Maddox
The twelve young people who died were truly remarkable kids. They were scholars, student athletes, active in Boy Scouts, 4-H, Church groups, they were leaders. If you had to chose a dozen students to represent the best of Texas A&M, you probably wouldn't do much better than these.
I have just learned about Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. He was the twelfth student to die, when his life support was disconnected last Friday evening. Let me tell you about this amazing kid.
Tim graduated last year from Germantown High School in Germantown, Tennessee. He was an Eagle Scout, graduated third in his class, and was elected to his High School Hall of Fame. He was a student athlete, and a member of the National Honor Society. He was active in the youth group and drama club at his Methodist Church.
He was actively recruited by Texas A&M, and when he enrolled he tested out of his entire freshman year. That is how this 17 year-old could be classified as a sophomore. Tim's father said that he was thrilled to be at A&M, and especially excited about bonfire. When the stack collapsed, his pelvis was crushed, his arm was broken, and his internal organs were scrambled like an omelette.
On the front page of Friday's Dallas Morning News is a large photo of the collapsed stack taken during the early part of the rescue effort. You can see a team working at the base of the logs to save a trapped student. About five feet above the rescue team is Tim Kerlee, reclining on a pile of logs, propped up on one elbow. Unless you look carefully at the photo you will probably not notice that his legs are laying in an odd position. What was happening, according to the rescue teams, was that Kerlee was directing the teams to other students trapped in the stack. He kept telling them that he was O.K., and he directed rescuers to at least five other students before he allowed them to take him down from the stack.
He was taken into emergency surgery, and when they opened him up they found his organs so badly damaged that they couldn't identify much of what they saw. They closed him up, wrapped him in a sheet to hold him together, and placed on life support. He lived long enough to see and speak to his parents. He was aware that he was dying and asked to be removed from life support. When his parents asked him why he wanted to, he asked them why he should fight for a few more days of life when he could be in Heaven with Jesus right now.
Well, he got his wish. I feel sorry that I never had a chance to know Tim Kerlee, but I praise God for kids like Tim Kerlee. If you had to pick a twelfth man you couldn't do much better.