Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Purdue: A Spirit Unbroken

My heart sank when I heard of the shooting at Purdue University that took the life of a Boilermaker in another senseless act of violence.

These incidents have become far too common.

Yet, when it hits so close to home, there is a different level of emotion.

Purdue was my home for almost three years.  I worked there as a reporter at WBAA Public Radio.  The shooting occurred within walking distance of my old office.  I have spent countless hours covering stories and events in the Electrical Engineering building where the shooting happened.

That part of campus is legendary.  A statue of one of the world’s greatest icons, Neil Armstrong, sits there.

It’s an area of elite learning, a place where dreams transform into opportunities.  Students who study there leave ready to build the future of this country.

So, to have some monster come in and try to tear down the fabric and peace of the University and a place I used to call home is maddening.  It’s gut wrenching.

But, there is something I learned during my time at Purdue - Boilermakers are a family.  That doesn't mean it’s perfect, but there is a unique sense of unity in West Lafayette that is hard to match.

Gold and Black is worn as a badge of pride.

Generations of Boilermakers wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings in the fall before football games to honor a tradition of costumes, merriment. 

Go to a basketball game at Mackey Arena. For opposing fans, it is brutal.  You don’t want to mess with a fired up Paint Crew.  It is deafeningly loud.  They want you to know very clearly, this is their house and it is not to be disturbed.

That’s a microcosm of the University and around noon, Tuesday, someone tried to disrupt the house.

Purdue is a place you grow to love.  I have.

I am technically not a Boilermaker.  I didn't attend Purdue, but was embraced by the University and
community through my work at WBAA which is housed in Elliot Hall of Music.

I have amazing friends who still live in West Lafayette.  I met my girlfriend there and have experienced some of the greatest memories of my life on campus.

A cloud may hang over campus temporarily.  The shooting has left Boilermakers, and the nation, with heavy hearts. 

The life lost and the mental and emotional scars can't be replaced and repaired.

But, when you hurt one member of the Purdue family, you hurt them all.  The tragedy will only create a stronger, more united Boilermaker nation. 

You can’t break the Purdue spirit.  You can’t break Purdue’s heart.

Boilermakers can’t be derailed.

Boiler Up, Hammer Down.  Hail Purdue!