One of the most amazing traditions at Texas A&M is Silver Taps.
Silver Taps is a ceremony to honor current students that have died in the past month. For the students who died in September, the Silver Taps is the first Tuesday in October. We had two horrifying deaths in September.
First was Maricarmen. She was a genetics major like me. Although I probably never spoke to her, we have has classes together. Our major is so small that it is impossible not to have a class with her. From what I’ve heard, she was wicked smart and very put together. She got into her top choice for medical school and realized that her boyfriend wasn’t doing anything with his life and was ultimately holding her back. She broke up with him and a week later he shot her.
I think everyone at A&M remembers the day that Alannah was killed. It happened outside of my friend Cullen’s house. He was snapchatting pictures of the scene with captions like ‘why does it look like a horror scene outside my house’ before he knew what happened. Then he felt incredibly guilty and apologized. Apparently a girl had been riding her bike home form campus in the Historic District when a garbage truck backed over her. The wheel crushed her entire skull, including her face and teeth, so for about 12 hours we didn’t know who had passed away. The Historic District is one of the most popular neighborhoods in College Station and I have so many friends who live over there and bike to school. It was a horrible to wait to see if you knew the girl who was flattened by the garbage truck.
When I didn’t know her, I was relieved. But although A&M is a huge campus, it’s a small world and I knew tons of people who were devastated by the loss of their friend. She was almost home when she was killed. Another 100 feet and she would’ve been safe. People are working to make wearing headphones when riding a bike illegal after it came out that she was listening to music and probably couldn’t hear the garbage truck. I understand that that is a factor in her death, but I feel as though the bigger problem is that she wasn’t wearing a helmet. I don’t know if a helmet would’ve changed Alannah’s fate, but I’m sure requiring bikers to wear helmets would save lives in the future. One of the saddest parts of Alannah’s death is that she was recently engaged to her high school sweetheart and was going to get married soon. I can’t imagine.
Cassidy, Claire, Mark, and I got to the Academic Plaza early for Silver Taps to make sure we got a good spot. It had the biggest attendance of any Silver Taps that I can remember, probably because Alannah’s death was so public. It’s a truly amazing experience. The lights on campus are turned off and all the Aggies gather together and stand in silence in honor of our fallen classmates. A&M is one of six military schools in the country, and it is so apparent in the way we honor our dead. The feeling of thousands of people standing together silently takes my breath away. I tear up every time just thinking of the love we have for our school, for our traditions, and for our classmates that most of us probably never interacted with.
The Ross Volunteers Firing Squad, and elite sector of the Corpse of Cadets, marches in at an incredibly slow pace, but each footfall is completely in synch. They are dressed all in white and stand out against the darkness that surrounds them. While they march, the bell tower rings out a slow rendition of Amazing Grace. The RVs come to a stop in front of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, one of the most influential people in TAMU history and the first recipient of a Silver Taps ceremony. In unison, the Ross Volunteers Firing Squad fires three shots into the sky. Then buglers from the Aggie band play out the sorrowful Silver Taps notes three times. Th RVs then continue their journey out of the Academic Plaza and the ceremony is complete.
I can’t describe how powerful it feels to stand there in silence and watch a beautiful tradition to honor our fallen Aggies. In the week surrounding Silver Taps, tables around campus encourage Aggies to right letters of support to the victim’s families, sharing our prayers, memories, and hopes. I love that every time I walk past a Silver Taps letter table, I see a crowd of people waiting to express their sorrow over a classmates death. We don’t have to be asked or told to write these letters, everyone knows it’s part of what makes us Aggies.
Every month the entire campus hopes that there will not be a Silver Taps ceremony. Not because we don’t want to stand silently in the dark for an hour, but because if there is no Silver Taps, then no current student died that month. I can only remember one month where we didn’t have a Silver Taps.
I wish we had more months without Silver Taps, but experiencing this incredible unity and honor on behalf of our fallen Aggies is part of what makes Texas A&M the most amazing campus in the world.