October 24, 2015 is a day that will live on in the hearts of most Oklahoma State faithful. On this day two years ago, tragedy struck at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade. I was at that parade, and like most others who were there, some memories stick out among others. This was the day I learned what it meant to be a Cowboy.
Oct. 24, 2015 started out like any other Saturday morning in the fall. I had just gotten back home from a campout for Paddle People. This morning was special though. It was homecoming Saturday. There was a different buzz in the air, as is standard for homecoming weekend at Oklahoma State.
It’s just different.
I was set to go to the parade with a few friends of mine. We left our dorm and walked into an unseasonably warm October (thanks Oklahoma) morning. We walked to the corner of Main and Hall of Fame and decided on a spot right in front of the Hastings.
The Parade had started and everyone was obviously excited. The Grand Marshall, Mayor Gina Noble, came by in a car, waving and nodding to those in the crowd. Kids ran to get candy from the people on foot and the floats that came by.
I took it all in. It was gonna be a great day, my sorority’s float looked awesome. “We’re totally gonna win,” I thought. Oklahoma State also had a game against an awful Kansas team that afternoon.
Little did I know that while my sorority ended up getting second in sweepstakes for student organizations and Oklahoma State would eventually win the game, none of it would matter. Not in the slightest.
I continued watching the parade until I saw all of the first responder vehicles come, signaling the end of the parade.
That’s when it all happened. I heard a loud crash. I turned to see things I don’t ever want to see again. A vehicle had come through the barricade and into the crowd. I saw people on the ground injured, and people running toward them to help. That was the first time I’d ever seen so many strangers come together to help out those in need.
I was shaking with shock and fear. I couldn’t stop crying. People started running and I had lost my roommates. When I found them, we just hugged each other in the only “holy crap, I’m so happy you’re alive,” hug I think I’ve ever had.
We went back to our room and gathered our thoughts. After a morning of internal debate, I decided I needed to go to the game. Looking back, that was one of the weirdest walks to Boone Pickens I’ve ever made. I walked alone. I just stared at the ground.
My phone was blowing up with people asking if everyone in my different groups was okay. I called my mom and told her what had happened before she could see the news and freak out. I got to the south side of the stadium, still crying a bit. I met up with the paddle people, and I then found out that not everyone in the group knew what had taken place. Once the officers did know, they had us all gather in a circle for prayer. That is most powerful thing I’ve experienced during my time at Oklahoma State.
That’s when it hit me ... In spite of all the craziness happening around me, these people stopped everything to pray for complete and total strangers. This is what it means to be a part of the Cowboy family. We weren’t going to let this shake us. We were going to keep those we had lost in memories and make sure that their legacies lived on.
In the days that followed, I went to candlelight vigils, petted numerous Pete’s Pet Posse dogs, and cried lots of tears. Through all of that, I saw students leaning on each other for support and comfort. Oklahoma State was united as a campus to help each other heal as much as we could.
We lost four members of the Cowboy family that day and had many others injured. This post is dedicated to Bonnie and Marvin Stone, Nakita Prabhakar Nakal, and Nash Lucas.