It’s 10:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.
You’re standing in Academic Plaza, listening to the end of “Amazing Grace” being played on Albritton Bell Tower as students continue to make their way to the plaza.
A few quiet minutes pass and you hear the Ross Volunteers getting closer and closer to the Sul Ross statue; their steps in perfect unison as they march in a slow, chilling cadence.
You tense up as they fire a three-volley salute; your heart skips a beat with each gunshot.
After a moment of silence, the buglers begin to play Texas A&M’s unique rendition of “Taps.” Shivers run down your spine as the chilling notes pierce the quiet night.
The guy in front of you puts an arm around his girlfriend’s waist as she rests her head on his shoulder. You hear someone near you softly praying. Faint sobs come from somewhere in the middle of the crowd.
The buglers finish playing and the last note lingers for a moment before fading into a deafening silence as you think about the students being honored that night.
This is Silver Taps, one of Texas A&M’s most sacred, yet dreaded, traditions; the final tribute to Aggies who were students at the time of their death.
This is what it means to be an Aggie.
When I attended Silver Taps for the first time as a freshman in the fall of 2015, I didn’t fully understand its significance.
My motivation for attending that night was selfish, but I quickly came to understand that attending Silver Taps is a small, but incredibly meaningful act you can perform for the families who have lost a son or daughter.
I haven’t missed a Silver Taps ceremony since.
It is so easy to find an excuse not to attend. You’re tired. You need to study. You have a project to work on. You could be working out or spending time with friends.
Taking 30 to 45 minutes out of your Tuesday night may feel inconvenient, but I promise you that this small sacrifice is nothing compared to what the family and friends of the students being honored are going through.
It is on the nights you find every excuse not to go to Silver Taps that you must remind yourself that being an Aggie is so much more than attending classes at Texas A&M University.
Being an Aggie means standing with your Aggie family to honor the brothers and sisters who were taken all too soon.
When you choose to attend Silver Taps, you are choosing to be a living representation of the Aggie Spirit.
We’ve all heard the saying – “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
This is “it.” Silver Taps is the purest embodiment of the Aggie Spirit and the most loving way we can honor the Ags we’ve lost.
Whether you’re a freshman or a fifth-year senior, whether this is your first Silver Taps ceremony or your nineteenth, I encourage you to think not only about the students we lost, but about what your presence must mean to the people who are standing with you, not for a stranger, but for a loved one.
We stand for the Aggies who will never get their rings. We stand for the Aggies who can never again greet us with a warm smile and a “Howdy.” We stand for the Aggies who won’t pull another all-nighter studying in Evans or endure another finals week. We stand for the Aggies who won’t walk the stage and become proud former students. We stand for our fellow Aggies, and know that if the roles were reversed, they would be standing for us.
So, this Tuesday when you’re deciding if it’s worth a drive back to campus or the walk from your dorm, remember that while you may be stressed about whatever else is going on in your life, you have the opportunity to stand in Academic Plaza for the people who can’t anymore.
Feb. 6 we stand for Marc Elizondo.
Cassie Stricker is an agricultural communications and journalism junior and photo chief for The Battalion.