OPINION: Swan Song
Joe Terrell: Thanks for the memories
Published: Monday, December 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 14:12
It’s time. Saturday morning signifies the end of my undergraduate career at Texas A&M. As I step across the stage, I’ll be moving through a sea of diverse memories and experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. Putting my A&M adventure into words will be difficult, but I’ll try.
It’s the percussive blast of The Spirit of ’02 reverberating through Kyle Field as an Aggie player crosses into the endzone with the football in tow. It’s the payoff of nervous energy as the floodlights in the stadium are extinguished for thirty seconds during Midnight Yell. It’s the glimmer of gold through amber-colored liquid at the bottom of a pitcher amid a flurry of camera bursts. It’s the mournful trumpet tones hovering in the night air at the close of Silver Taps. It’s the muzzle flash and candle glow of Muster in Reed Arena.
These are the sights and sounds that bind the current generation of A&M students to the decades of Aggie past. These are the threads that interweave between every former and current student of A&M. It’s the same blood that’s pulsed through the veins of A&M servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice on foreign battlefields as the blood that pooled beneath broken bodies during the early hours of Nov. 18, 1999.
It’s what outsiders jokingly refer to as “cult” and insiders lovingly refer to as “family.”
Then there are the experiences that belong exclusively to us. The memories shared by many but, in the end, are the memories of our generation. We are the generation that went a majority of our A&M career without our “living room,” only to have the Memorial Student Center gloriously restored to surpass its former glory. It’s the devastating silence as we filed out of Kyle Field following our defeat at the hands of t.u. after the final rivalry game. It’s a bowtie-wearing, dougie-dancing University president who has transcended the role of administrative official into an A&M icon.
It’s snowball fights and snowmen on campus during the winter of 2010. It’s the detonation of euphoria across College Station as the 2012 football team defeated number-one ranked Alabama. It’s the women’s basketball 2011 National Championship. It’s 10,000 students filing into Reed Arena for a Bible study at Breakaway. It’s the monumental shift from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, a watershed moment in our University’s history.
It’s Jerrod Johnson, Von Miller, Ryan Tannehill, Cyrus Gray, Damontre Moore, Ryan Swope and, of course, Johnny Football.
This is our Texas A&M. No former or future student will be able to claim this slice of University history we find ourselves in. A&M stands poised on the national stage. Even though it has been said countless times throughout the various eras of our University, I can repeat it now with complete conviction and sincerity: There is no better time to be a student at Texas A&M.
But the heart of this University isn’t a national brand, a football team or a long list of beloved traditions. It’s not Kyle Field, the MSC or the Quad. It’s not Johnny Football, R. Bowen Loftin or Reveille.
It’s you and me.
I used to be jaded about people’s seemingly blind devotion to our University. I couldn’t quite grasp it. But as the curtain begins to lower on my undergraduate career, I understand.
It’s not a dedication to collection of buildings. It’s not a commitment to a particular color or mascot. It’s an allegiance to each other.
It’s not brainwashing. It’s love. It’s what separates A&M from every other university in the world.
For me, the illuminating moment in my three and half years as a student at A&M wasn’t a classroom experience, a heartrending breakup with a girlfriend or a colossal football victory. It didn’t even take place in College Station. It occurred in Colorado over the summer.
After summiting Mount Elbert, the second tallest peak in the continental U.S., I found myself 14,440 feet above sea level, reeling from oxygen deprivation and below-freezing temperatures. There, on the highest mountain in Colorado and the Rockies, someone approached me and stuck out his right hand. I still remember seeing the glint of gold.
“Howdy,” he said. “I noticed your ring. My name is James. Class of 2011.”
And that’s when it all clicked. When all the pieces came together.
When I walk the stage on Saturday morning in my black robe, it will no longer be my Texas A&M, it’ll be yours.