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Oklahoma State Homecoming Remembered

Remembering Homecoming one year after tragedy struck Stillwater.

Editor’s Note: I will never forget the feeling of walking past the dead. Lying there just a few yards away and covered by tarps as I made my way to into the stadium to watch a football game. As the crowd made its way down the street, no one spoke. It was eerily silent. The game didn’t really seem important anymore, but it felt like going was the right thing to do, because there were now people who couldn’t. Our thoughts and prayers go to all those affected by that fateful day.

*****

This year homecoming at Oklahoma State is going to be a little different, there will still be the walk-around, homecoming and hoops, and there will still be a parade on Saturday morning. Except this year’s parade will be attended with heavy hearts by many. Oklahoma State suffered a tragedy last year after a woman crashed through police barriers and slammed her car into a group of people watching the parade. Dozens were hurt and four lost their lives that day. A day that was supposed to be marked by celebration, touchdowns and tailgating, not by tragedy.

It was a day I won’t forget.

As an Oklahoma State alumnus who attends homecoming almost every year, my wife and I decided to make the trip to see the homecoming decorations, have some drinks at Georges and Eskimo Joes, and attend the game. My wife did not go to Oklahoma State and it was my first time taking her to the homecoming, so we were pretty excited to say the least.

We headed out that morning and got into Stillwater around 10:30 in the morning.  As we drove into town we started to notice parade floats coming our way, and we thought we had missed the parade, regretting that we hadn’t gotten into town a little earlier.

That’s when everything started to go into slow motion.

Then ambulances and emergency vehicles started to flying past us as we got closer to the parade route. ‘Oh it’s probably a car wreck up here’, we thought. Then almost simultaneously, just as we were hearing what was happening via the radio, we turned onto Main Street just minutes after it happened.  We were greeted by chaos and what seemed like an infinite number of police lights in the intersection as we turned off to find our parking spot.

We made our way to a friend’s tailgate, as our family members called to check in we discussed the implications of the event on the rest of the day. There was talk of them canceling the game and whether or not they should, many fans agreeing that they wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Tailgate TVs turned from College GameDay to the news as friends and strangers gathered around to hear the press conference detailing what exactly happened.

What proceeded was the quietest game atmosphere I have ever been a part of.  There was no celebrating, there was no joking around it was all-around just an eerie feeling for the rest of the day. As the players and coaches came down Hester Street for “The Walk” there was no band playing, there was no yelling, just a seldom ‘let’s go boys’ as they walked passed on their way to the stadium.

Yeah, Oklahoma State won, and yeah there was some cheering during the game. But it was more like a, cheer because that’s what we were programmed to do sort of thing, not a cheer because we’re excited sort of thing.

Being my wife’s first homecoming game we knew it was going to be memorable but we did not know it was going to be because of a terrible tragedy that happened that day. It is a day that neither we, nor about the 100,000 other people will ever forget. Especially as the game ended and everyone was making their way home the sky lit up in the brightest orange I think I have ever seen and that most pictures can’t do justice. It gave me goose bumps just seeing it.

There will no doubt be a lot of talk surrounding that day, leading up to and during the game. Tragedy is something that the Oklahoma State community knows how to deal with all too well. I have no doubt that they will honor the victims in the best way possible. Oklahoma State is more than a fan base it’s a family and that October day in 2015 we all became a little closer.

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