Stillwater strong

Oklahoma State: A school of tragedy


Stillwater strong

Tragedy is something that is unavoidable. At one time or another, everybody experiences it. When a catastrophe strikes, it is the job of a community to respond and help in whatever way possible. There is no better example of a strong group of people that has dealt with tragedy than Stillwater, Oklahoma, the site of Oklahoma State.

Since 2001, Oklahoma State University has gone through three terrible events of adversity. The first came on a January flight that crashed near Strasburg, Colorado killing 10 members of the Oklahoma State mens basketball program. Then on November 26, 2011, another plane crashed in Perry County, Arkansas that ended the lives of women’s basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna on a recruiting visit. The most recent tragedy occurred less than 20 days ago when Adacia Chambers plowed a car into the crowd at an Oklahoma State homecoming parade, killing four people and injuring dozens of others.

During the crash of 2001, the pilot had lost his vision in a snow storm. The plane was flying from Jefferson County Airport to Stillwater Regional Airport after the team’s loss against the Colorado Buffaloes.

“I remember the crash of ’01,” says Andy Poli. “Whenever something of that magnitude happens, you really get to know who you can trust, and if you’re living Stillwater, Oklahoma, you’ve got a whole bunch of people you can count on.”


memorial of those lost of the basketball program in 2001

Memorial of those lost to the basketball program in 2001

The accident of 2011 came as more of a shock than the one that came a decade ago. During an interview with ESPN writer Brandon Chatmon, OSU student Ryan Wylie said lightning isn’t supposed to strike twice, but it did.

Coaches of the 2011 women's basketball team Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna
Coaches of the 2011 women’s basketball team Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna

Then it struck a third time during the homecoming day parade. Adacia Chambers was reported to be under the influence and suffering from a mental illness as well. As the unfortunate event took place, Chambers claimed that she doesn’t remember much of what happened and only recalls people removing her from the car. 

Numerous students and Stillwater residents will continue to remember and honor those that passed on that horrific day. 

“It’s a shame to see what has happened and what continues to happen at Oklahoma State,” said Senior Ryan Heckmueller. “But no matter what happens I believe they’ll get through it because they always have.”  

Stillwater strong T-Shirt
Stillwater strong T-Shirt

Two weeks after the Homecoming day parade tragedy, Oklahoma State’s football team went on to beat Heisman candidate Treyvone Boykin and the 5th ranked TCU horned frogs, 48-29. The cowboys gathered together in prayer before the game to honor those they had lost. OSU is currently undefeated.

Stillwater  has become a community that other communities should emulate. They’re resiliency and buoyancy when a tragic event arises is compelling to witness. When we see disaster, it is almost instinct to acknowledge that nothing can be worse than this and you’ve hit rock bottom, but Stillwater has consistently shown its strength and courage when tragedy strikes. When somebody is down or in grief, they all come together to rise above it. 

Countless remembrances, memorials, and scholarships have been used to honor those that have fallen. They honor those that have died by choosing the way they live. 

To watch an ESPN video about Stillwater, click here.