A student's early-morning encounters with the bell tower resonated through her days like a prayer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the winning entry from the 2005 BYU Magazine student essay contest. The theme was Enter to Learn.
No person should ever walk up more than 100 stairs before the sun comes up—especially if those stairs are of the spiral, rickety variety. But I did this once a week during my freshman year at BYU, when I worked as an early-morning custodian. One-hundred-plus stairs led me to my favorite task—emptying the bell tower trash bin.
It seemed silly to trek all the way to the top of the tower just to empty a tiny trash bin (usually containing only the wrapper from a candy bar enjoyed by some graduate music student). But the view from the carillon silenced all my grumblings. It’s a view few students get to enjoy.
There, through floor-to-ceiling windows, I saw BYU before the bustle and business of her day began. I saw her before the parking lots filled with cars and before bikes began making beelines across swarming sidewalks. I saw her before chatty classmates and needy nappers sprawled themselves across her lawns, before shrill class bells sounded or late-comers bounded or lovers stopped for a kiss. I saw her before it all—there, quiet in the purple of the dawn.
Though I only ever spent a few minutes up there (occasionally taking my 15-minute break to bask in the view), the scope of the semesters allowed me to see campus in many stages of sunrise and seasons.
It was easy to be quiet up there with BYU, to share in a morning stretch or a long, generous yawn. I would whisper adorations up there—for dewy-eyed flower buds and lush, leafy trees. Some mornings were especially breathtaking, when the sky over BYU was a bruise—blackish purple and then bloody red, until it warmed into a hopeful pink. On those mornings, I whispered prayers.
I thanked my Heavenly Father that I could live and work and study at this university. I whispered gratitude for professors who became friends, roommates who became family, and the school that became my home.
The sun would come up like an answer, spilling gold down the mountains and spitting sparkles all over the campus sidewalks I had grown to adore.
There were some mornings when I just couldn’t help myself. With the warmth of sun on my cheeks, a prayer still fresh on my lips, and campus waking in the first minutes of the day, I would do it. I would ring a bell.
The deep and robust dong above my head served as the “amen” on the end of my prayers and shook me to the core. As I made my way down the stairs, my body still resonated with its chime.
My day would blur on ahead of me, filled with class work and homework and busywork. I would rush to meet a deadline, try not to step out of line, and wait in too-long a line at the bookstore. My school days were about making A’s and friends and jaunting off to Jamba Juice. But every hour, on the hour, I would pause. Because it was then that my other friends, the bells, would sing to me.
It was a ringing-out declaration that they were there, watching over me all day. Their melodious tune was a reminder of my morning prayer and a plea, each hour, to count my blessings again.
It was easy to get lost in the complexity of the day, but the bells always brought me back to the basics: my Heavenly Father loved me, and I was lucky to be here.
Climbing those stairs before dawn was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I fell in love with BYU in all of her simplicity. And I fell in love with life in all of its glory.
Victoria Bradley is a print journalism major from Pittsburgh, Penn.
The second- and third-place essays in the 2005 BYU Magazine student essay contest can be read online at magazine.byu.edu/extras.