Red, White And Blue Game Revived By Texas A&M Students Ahead Of 9/11 Anniversary
Texas A&M University re-created the famous Red, White and Blue football game last Saturday at Kyle Field to remember the upcoming 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In the days following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, five Aggies – current students at the time – led the extraordinary effort that resulted in a massive display of the nation’s colors throughout Texas A&M’s stadium. The initiative sold more than 70,000 red, white and blue T-shirts in less than 10 days, in time for the game against Oklahoma State on Sept. 22, 2001. The effort raised $180,000 (from efforts through game day) for the New York Fire and Police Benevolence relief funds. An additional $55,000 was raised after game day from the sale of shirts and posters.
Last weekend, when the Aggies took on Kent State in the season’s first match, those attending filled a much larger Kyle Field with red, white and blue to honor the fallen and raise funds for Texas Task Force 1 and the President George H.W. Bush Points of Light Foundation. In the end, approximately 75,000 shirts were sold and the recipient organizations each received a $50,000 donation.
Claire Brown ’22, a senior human resources development major from Richmond, Texas, helped organize the event on behalf of the student organization Maroon Out, where she serves as executive director.
Brown said re-creating the event is something students were excited about because it aligns with Aggie traditions of service and love of country.
“Students here are super passionate about service and traditions,” Brown said. “Whether it’s Maroon Out or Fish Camp, you want to be a part of those things and that same fire is reignited in every single class.”
The Original Game
The now-iconic images taken at the original Red, White and Blue game serve as a reminder of the power of the Aggie spirit, said Nick Luton ’02, one of the five former students who spearheaded the effort.
“What happened really demonstrates what being an Aggie is all about: we love and care for our neighbors and our nation, even when something happens 1,500 miles away in New York,” said Luton, who earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2003 and his MBA in 2005, both from Texas A&M.
Luton was one of the five students who came together the day after the attack via an online message board. The others were Kourtney Rogers (now Gruner) ’03, Eric Bethea ’03, Cole Robertson ’03 and Josh Rosinski ’02.
Bethea, who majored in finance at Mays Business School, said like everyone on campus and all over the nation, he was in shock watching the horrific events of the day unfold.
“That day I woke up late and had to just put on clothes and rush straight to class,” Bethea recalled. “Walking into the business school I noticed hordes of kids standing around TVs, which was pretty unusual. But I didn’t even think anything of it. And then our professor told us what happened and that class was canceled.”
Bethea said he came home and watched the news in complete disbelief and later got on the message board where students were discussing the day’s events.
“It was students throwing out all these ideas of what can we do as poor college kids in Texas to help this cause,” said Bethea, who works at an oil and gas company in Houston. “And it was probably about midnight that I thought ‘why don’t we do a Red, White and Blue Out and raise money that we can send to New York?'”
So he posted the idea, getting immediate support, especially from the four who became his co-organizers, who all met for lunch the next day to hammer down a plan of action.
Gruner, a self-professed Aggie sports fanatic, said she jumped at the chance to participate in the effort.
With no smartphones and social media to easily spread the word, Gruner said she posted an email with details of the effort, asking volunteers to forward to as many people as they could to solicit help.
“It was a leap of faith,” she said, “and the response was overwhelming – people from all over campus and eventually around the state, pitched in their support.”
C.C. Creations agreed to front the first 5,000 shirts which sold out almost immediately. “We could barely get them off the truck,” said Gruner who currently works at Texas A&M as the assistant director for the master of industrial distribution program and is a current Aggie grad student, seeking her Ph.D. in higher education administration.
Gruner said shirts were being printed all day and night, and at one point, there were no more solid red, white or blue T-shirts to be found in the local area, they had bought them all. “So we had people renting vans and bringing shirts in from Dallas and all these other places,” she said.
When finally the day of the game arrived, they’d sold around 40,000 shirts. Another 30,000 were sold on gameday in front of the stadium, including Oklahoma State fans in attendance who changed out of their school colors to support the effort.
The end result was stunning, far exceeding their expectations, Luton said.
“We had hoped just for the student section to be wearing the shirts, but it was entire stadium, even the coaches,” he said. “Walking in during the first quarter, I was absolutely shocked. It made all those hours of work completely worth it.”