However, this time felt different, and not in a good way. Was the pressure of work spoiling my day? It’s quite possible: last minute business trips are never fun no matter where you are. Was it the feeling of being there by force (in a manner of speaking), therefore taking me back to the times of having to actually be productive? I wouldn’t hold it past myself.
While exploring and marveling at the improvements and development of areas like Northgate and Texas Ave, something else was bothering me. The good nostalgia was not what was flowing through my mind like I thought it would. There was some other lingering feeling, and it wasn’t just the longing to be a young, carefree student again. After a while I figured out what my problem was: I was there alone, and that itself reminded me of the saddest, most difficult period of my life.
Rewind back five years: it is Tuesday night, October 28, 2008. My identical twin sister, Alice, and I are talking on the phone, discussing how to celebrate our 23rd birthday in both Houston and College Station. We talked every night on the phone. This fall semester was the first time in our lives that we had lived apart, but we adjusted just fine thanks to cell phones and chat boards. She had just graduated from A&M earlier that year and was now a math teacher at Cy-Lakes High School while also working on her Master’s Degree in Education at A&M on the weekends. I had yet to graduate (changing majors after your junior year will do that).
We ultimately decide I will go to Houston on Thursday night, watch her teach on Friday and then return to College Station for the weekend fun. The conversation ends with Alice telling me she’s not feeling 100%, so she’s going to bed a little early.
The next day, October 29, was routine. I got up and went to work in the morning before preparing for class in the afternoon. I was looking forward to seeing Alice the next day even though we had just seen each other four days prior, at home in San Antonio. However, something broke my routine. My dad called and said he was making a surprise trip to Aggieland and wanted me to skip class to be with him. Not being a skipper, I was against this but eventually relented. I found this funny and sent Alice a text, laughing at the whole situation. I didn’t expect an answer because I knew she was teaching, and what kind of teacher would text in class when the students can’t?
I was initially happy to see my dad when he arrived (even though he was making me go against my principles), but then my mom walked in behind him, and I instantly knew something was wrong. There was only one question left: who?
Sure enough, it was Alice: my identical twin, my sister, my best friend, the person I had spent my entire life with, was gone from this earth and I would never see her again. At first it was just pure shock, but soon I broke down crying with my dog Toby trying to help my mom comfort me.
She explained what had happned: Alice didn’t show up at work that day and wasn’t answering her phone, so the school called her emergency contact: my dad. His best buddy from his Aggie days lives in Houston, so he asked him to go check on Alice at her apartment, where he found her "sleeping" peacefully in her bed. The cause of death was never determined.
There was a lot to do the next few days. We left College Station to go to Houston and tell my older sister (who at the time was also a teacher there), wrote the obituary and planned her funeral back in San Antonio. After the rush and shock of that week, I took one more week off of school to mourn before heading back to Aggieland.
This is where the beauty that is Texas A&M, the Aggie family and the Spirit of Aggieland all come into play. I wasn’t about to take the rest of the semester off. I had already added an extra year to my degree, plus why would I throw away over half of a semester just to take it all over again in a year? It wasn’t what Alice would have wanted for me.
Anyone who knows anything about Texas A&M knows this: no one honors those who have fallen quite like the Aggies do, and not even the most hateful of all haters can deny it. Between Silver Taps and Muster, they never let you forget your loved ones.
Alice’s Silver Taps was a cold one in early December. For those who were fortunately never on the receiving end of the honor, the families meet at the MSC and are given some gifts before being led out to the front of the crowd to begin the ceremony. I remember sobbing heavily at the first Taps my freshman year even though I didn’t knew anybody, but I hardly cried this time despite being an honorary guest with my family. Perhaps I had simply cried all the tears I could muster up at the time, or maybe it was simply the awe of it all that you don’t see as a simple attendee, but either way I was too focused on my surroundings to let the sad emotions overwhelm me.
Next was Muster. I never thought I’d be one holding a candle on the floor of Reed Arena at such a young age, but there I was. When you are that early in the roll call it becomes a little tedious holding a lit candle for so long, hoping that hot wax doesn’t drip on your hand, but that didn’t matter. I heard plenty of here’s for Alice, and I knew once Muster had ended the healing process would officially begin. Nothing made that process easier than Aggieland.
Back to the present: it’s five years later and many things are right in my life. I have a great job, a wonderful family and the football team is finally on the rise after the gloomy days of Fran and Sherman (seriously, any current students complaining about losing to a ranked Auburn team need to be sent back 10 years in a time machine: you have been spoiled rotten by Johnny and Coach Sumlin).
I still think about Alice every day, although usually in a good way. I will always miss her, and this time of year will always bring about sad memories. However, all I have to do is remember how well Texas A&M took care of me and my family and remember that nowhere else would have done the same.
I finished my degree without delay, and I survived one more semester at Texas A&M despite having to learn to deal with life without Alice, all because the Aggie family was there for me. Haters may think we’re nuts, but we know the truth: we are the Aggies, true to each other as Aggies can be. They can boost all the rest, but we know we are the best. Thanks and Gig ‘em!
In loving memory of my twin sister Alice, Class of ‘08
October 31, 1985 – October 29, 2008