Archive for April, 2010

silent witness

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

We converged in darkness, in silence, perhaps 1,000 or more strong. A few footfalls the only sound as the carillon played through spiritual after spiritual.

Then the carillon stopped.

In the distance a muffled march could be heard, its cadence distinct in its deliberateness. Each stride fell in unison among the 22 approaching. The strides were held apart with five seconds as they grew closer and more distinct.

As the thousand stood silently in the darkness, a darkness made out of respect, the leader of the 21 appeared as an apparition in white, dark sash separating his body into two distinct parts in the darkness. Then more apparations came into view. Moving as if they were one mechanism, deliberate steps now separated by thirty seconds.

The leader positioned the 21 at the back of the space we made by standing in silence. Each movement was now separated by sixty seconds.

With no audible command, the first rank of seven pointed their weapons to the sky and released the first volley. The flash and thunder of the report startled me off my feet. Another sixty seconds to lower the weapons. The second rank raised another volley of seven flashes, executed as one machine might. Sixty seconds more. The third rank raised the final volley whereupon the twenty one guns had spoken to the campus and parted the night with their flash and thunder.

Sixty more seconds. A chorus of bugles plays taps towards the west, then the south, then the north, but never the east as the sun will not rise again on the faces of those that were remembered tonight.

As the echo of the last notes faded. The thousand began moving out of the darkness, in silence, towards the light.

The names of those passed was unspoken this night but will be called to muster in fifteen days.


These quiet traditions, respected by those in uniform and those in flip flops, begin to define the values of this family.

That the thousand appeared in the darkness, making a space to hold the families of those Aggies who won’t see graduation, that they came and left in silence, paying respect for peers that most didn’t know speaks volumes for the character of this university family where honor is not simply a code but is a commitment to each other.

…Silver Taps 4.6.10…

In ten days another university family will construct another stone in the wall of tradition. 1,175 miles east and north of here, they will remember thirty two lost at the hand of one. It will be quiet here. I’ll look their way at 9:30.

Be good to each other. Honor each other, remember.