Tonight, a celebration of five beautiful lives took place at Georgia Southern University. To my left and to my right, Georgia Southern Eagles of various ages, races, majors, Greek life, and teams united together in remembrance of Caitlyn Baggett, Morgan Bass, Abbie Deloach, Emily Clark, and Catherine (McKay) Pittman. In all of my three years here at GSU, in the midst of all of the heartbreak, I’ve never felt more at home than I did tonight. Hundreds of people gathered to lift up these incredible ladies as fellow nurses, sisters, classmates, best friends, students, coworkers, mentors, and even as strangers. The saying a large scale school with a small town feel has never held more truth. We shared, we cried, we hugged, we prayed, and we patted each other on the shoulders with somber nods. For less than 24 hours prior, our small country town had been rattled with sudden bewilderment, yet, tonight we unified to prove that we will not be shaken.
Though our hearts are sad, they will not be hardened. Though our minds are confused, they will not be angered. Though our spirit is depressed, it will not be crushed. We are Georgia Southern Eagles. While I cannot fully comprehend the rhyme and reason behind God’s plans, I imagine he specifically picked this community because we are strong… because we are unified…because we are brave. He will renew us, strengthen us, and build us.
Now and again, people tend to associate the Georgia Southern name with a negative connotation. Whether we are being ragged on as UGA’s annoying little sister or labeled as the STD capital of the South, we don’t seem to be a crowd favorite. We aren’t the biggest. We aren’t the most upscale. And we might not be the smartest. Yet, no matter how intense a critic’s hatred is for Georgia Southern, they cannot deny the extreme intimacy of our community. Yes, we’re loud… And yes, we’re tremendously obnoxious… but it’s due to our deep love for our school. And through that powerful love of our incredible institution, our love for one another overflows. As a part of Eagle Nation, our immense pride is attributed to the people it encompasses.
We battle day in and day out because we yearn for our GSU emblem to represent something greater than ourselves. As nursing students, Abbie, Emily, McKay, Morgan, and Caitlyn embarked on a demanding, challenging, and time-consuming journey in order to serve others. They sacrificed long nights and early mornings to aid other’s needs before their own. Their selflessness, boldness, and devotion are characteristics that should be instilled into the hearts of all Georgia Southern students. Whether we seek after a championship ring, a scholarship, a degree, a badge, or a status, we should recognize that the reward isn’t anticipated for self-glory. The reward resides in the enrichment of others and the glorification of God, which is exactly what Abbie, McKay, Morgan, Emily, and Caitlyn embodied. That’s what Eagle Nation is about- building each other up, taking close care of one another, making each other proud, and supporting one another through every trial and tribulation.
We scream whose house at the top of our lungs because nothing will make our house collapse. Our foundation is too strong. We say GATA, not because we’re repugnant rednecks, but because we believe in pursing something whole heartedly. We bleed blue and gold because when one Eagle is wounded, we’re all wounded. When one weeps, we all weep. When one is healed, we’re all healed. When one overcomes, we all overcome.
The devil is waiting for us to crumble… for our hearts to harden… for us to grow weary. But he doesn’t realize whose house he just shook. In Isaiah 40:31, it says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” While there is difficulty in rejoicing in our dear friends’ arrival through the Golden Gates, we must trust in God’s timing. Life is short and God demands for us to truly live every day.
Our beautiful fellow Eagles soar above us in sync, watching over their nest that they so proudly contributed to. They believe in our strength. They desire for us to live out their legacy. They believe that we can overcome any adversity. We are courageous. We are strong. We are Georgia Southern strong.