AUSTIN (KXAN) - Inspired by the stunning wreck that happened right outside its doors, the University Co-op is selling a shirt comically memorializing the bus crash that sent a student flying with nothing but a foam sword to shield the intense, head-on impact.
"Something at the Co-op we're striving to do is constantly interact with the students and, you know, kind of put the Co-op in fun light -- kind of have fun with what's happening over on campus," said promotions manager William Kelleher. "So we saw this as kind of an opportunity for that to kind of move forward and interact with the students."
University of Texas freshman Nick Engmann's run-in with a Capital Metro shuttle bus during the end-of-school tradition "Foam Sword Friday" quickly morphed him into an Internet sensation -- the video going viral and even landing him on "Good Morning America."
But it won't stop there -- even months after -- because Engmann's freak accident is on track become a fixture within the University Co-op, just feet away from where the idea for the design was born.
Kelleher is well aware that the May 4 incident is now woven into the fabric of student life. And that's precisely the reason they've chosen to give it life for students on fabric: a shirt called the Sword Fight Bus Challenge Tee.
"We felt it was clearly something we could jump into and kind of have fun with, with the lighthearted situation that it was," said Kelleher. "With that being one of the most popular YouTube videos about University of Texas, it was even on Tosh.O, we knew immediately, like, we needed to do a design with that shirt."
The design entails a stick figure -- foam sword in hand -- squarely facing off with an approaching bus as a crowd stands behind him. The phrase surrounding that drawing mimics the same phrase from UT shuttle bus recordings that are both in English and Spanish for student riders.
The shirt features the Spanish version, that translates to "Do not cross in front of the bus." In English, however, you'll find the bold statement: "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."
Kelleher said it's a memorable moment made possible by the fact that Engmann was not seriously injured and was able to immediately get up and walk away from the accident, though the bus' shattered windshield that day served as a sobering reminder that the incident could've turned out much worse.
"It's hard to say it was comical because it was a very serious situation," said Kelleher. "But at the end of the day, no one was seriously hurt and, you know, I think it's something that every UT student that goes to school here right now feels like they were a part of that situation, even if they weren't on the sidewalk."
Austin Community College student Sonya Dryz sees nothing humorous about the situation, much less about creating the shirt.
"That's horrendous. That's ridiculous," said Dryz, who was shopping at the the Co-op Art Store. "I mean, it's a tragic occurrence, and people are making light of it to do what? Entertain themselves? I mean, this is a symptom of our society today that just doesn't recognize the gravity of certain situations."
"Why not?" said UT fifth-year math and economics student Antonio Ventura. "Just the fact that, like, an event like that can actually, in a way, unite the whole school. I think it's pretty cool."
Ventura said Engmann was part of the joke afterward, too.
"Like even when after he got hit, he got up and was laughing, so," said Ventura.
As for the naysayers, Kelleher said that if everyone can have fun and laugh at the situation, that's where the Co-op can move forward with it.
"I feel like that is a piece of history that we're almost creating for them," said Kelleher. "Being able to leverage it in a meme fashion is the timely manner of what's going and and what's trendy at this time."
More than two dozen of the shirts have been sold in the last three weeks alone, and officials expect sales to really pick up when students return to school in the fall and offer the shirts in-store.
People can buy any of the four meme shirts online now. They feature everything from Sixth Street to student life and even the crazy Texas weather.
Meanwhile, KXAN News called Engmann to see what he had to say about the shirt, but he said he was at work and couldn't talk on the phone. The phone call abruptly ended, and he has not responded to any messages left by KXAN.
Kelleher said they, too, reached out to Engmann following the incident but never heard back.
They'd like to hand Engmann the shirt he inadvertently inspired.
"He is the star of that whole situation," said Kelleher.
Meaning and morphosis of 'meme' and its Longhorn impact
"I think where it really hit mainstream is when, you know, it was all these college meme pages really sprang up this spring," said Kelleher. "And it was just crazy to see how they
took some of these memes and were able to incorporate that into student life, which I think is pretty cool."
Internet memes can come in the form of a hyperlink, video, picture, website, hashtag or just a word or phrase, and can spread through social networks, blogs, direct email, news sources or other web-based services.
They can evolve and spread extremely rapidly, sometimes going viral within a few days. Internet memes are also usually formed from some social interaction, pop culture reference or situations people often find themselves in -- such as the bus crash near UT.
"All the shirts that we have created, the ideas have been taken directly off the UT meme page," said Kelleher, who pointed out that the page offers a disclaimer about the transferring of ownership once an image or idea is posted.
And that applies to the more than 18,000 fans of the page. It garnered more than 14,000 alone in the first week it launched, landing it in the No. 2 spot for college meme pages nationwide.
Kelleher said the really popular memes are the ones that are a reflection of what's happening on campus, such as daily struggles or jokes about campus happenings.
"So just to see that voice of the student coming out in the memes, I think, is pretty cool because it's real-time," he said. "It's happening right now, and you can see other comments of memes that is a clear interaction of what's going on ... Being abe to see that is great."
Still, Sonya Dryz said it's not something she relates to, especially when it comes to the meme about Engmann's dangerous wreck.
"It just doesn't seem like something I'd want to celebrate to the extent of creating a phrase about it that everyone would remember," she said. "It seems kind of immature, I suppose. I'm probably more than 10 years older than a lot of these kids, so I grew up in a different environment."
The meme about the bus incident began as a picture of Engmann with a caption, something Kelleher and his team took and redesigned using stick figures for the final product.
So what do the masterminds behind the memes get for their ingenious work, should they make it to Co-op store shelves? A free shirt, of course!
"We'll print shirts for free for those students that do create it so they can still see this finished product," said Kelleher. "They shouldn't have to pay for it."
Meanwhile, a percent of every shirt sale goes to the creator of the UTexas Memes page, while the rest heads to the University Co-op.
In the end, Kelleher said he thinks he's onto something.
"I think it's a good way for students to kind of show off and have this inside joke with all their students, all of their friends they go to school with, that other students might not understand at Texas A&M or another school -- but for them is something they can have ownership of," he said.
Guess the eyes of Texas will keep scanning the Web world to see how it can keep doing everything bigger until Gabriel blows his horn.
On the last day of classes for the spring 2012 semester at UT, Engmann found himself violently flung several feet after the Capital Metro bus hit him head-on in the middle of the street.
"It wasn't until that I got up, I looked at the bus, and I looked at the faces surrounding me ... I said, 'Wow, did I just get hit by a bus?'" said Engmann, who spoke with "Good Morning America" a few days after the accident. "And everyone was in a panic and a flurry."
It happened during an end-of-semester tradition first organized by UT graduate students in 2007.
KXAN News did talk with Engmann on the phone in early May, but he declined to comment and said he just wanted to study for finals.
"It was a little bit more stressful that I had to take it like right after I got hit by a moving vehicle," said Engmann. "But through a lot of help from people on campus, great friends and family, I was able to take my finals. And I got all As and one B."
Engmann said he is doing well. And while medical staff released him from the hospital the same day, doctors are still monitoring his neck and shoulders to make sure he's OK.
The video shows the bus driver did not run a red light and was following the law. However, CapMetro safety policies are more stringent -- where drivers are trained to stop when lights turn yellow.
Austin police did cite the driver for allegedly running a red light that day, though that is likely to be dismissed. It will be up to the driver to contest the ticket.
Deadly MetroRail wreck
Four days before Engmann's run-in with the shuttle bus, a 32-year-old father of two boys died when a Capital MetroRail train hit his car and then dragged for several feet along the tracks.
Two children survived the wreckage near the private crossing west of MoPac Boulevard and north of Parmer
Lane. Both boys were taken to Dell Children's Medical Center with minor injuries and remain in stable condition.
Passersby helped cut one of the boys loose from his seat belt with a pocket knife, and the other scrambled to safety on his own.
Jeremy Barta's roommate told KXAN News that he was a single father and was taking his two sons to school when the wreck happened.
The collision happened around 7:35 a.m. on Oak Creek Drive at the MoPac frontage road heading south, near the Howard Lane station and also near Scofield Ridge Parkway.
Neighbors said that the wreck happened near a private driveway, where there are no gates. Neighbors also said there are three homes on that private land.
Engineers are not required to sound a train's horn nor are crossing arms required to be installed at private crossings. There are 13 private train crossings, only one of which has crossing arms.
Passengers on board the train said they heard the conductor sound the horn.
Still, there are stop signs on both sides of the tracks -- meaning that cars going in both directions must stop before crossing.
This was the first death involving the MetroRail.
Deadly shuttle bus accident
The deadly MetroRail wreck came days after Austin police announced they closed a probe into the deadly CapMetro bus accident that killed 22-year-old University of Texas student Andy Wang.
Police and CapMetro officials said it was a tragic accident when a CapMetro bus ran over Wang, who lost his balance and landed under the bus just before it took off.
Video released by the transit agency on April 26 shows Wang stumbling off the bus. He appears intoxicated as a friend tries to help him keep his balance. When the two get off the bus, Wang falls backward and lands underneath the back tire. The bus driver takes off, not knowing Wang was beneath the bus.
The video shows horrified passengers asking the driver to stop the bus. That driver later tries to keep those passengers away from the terrible scene outside the bus.
Wang was later pronounced dead at the hospital. He was set to graduate from The University of Texas in December.
The bus driver in this incident was not cited. He was put on administrative leave -- which is standard procedure -- and will return to work next week.
Since the MetroRail began running in 2010, there have been two previous wrecks involving the train.
Cedar Park police cited the teen driver of the pickup truck involved in the MetroRail wreck in March 2011, the first for the MetroRail since it began running the year before.
Some 17 passengers, including the operator, were aboard the train when it clipped the rear passenger side of that pickup truck at a private crossing for the MetroRail. The site was also near a home.
Police said the accident happened around 9 a.m. in the 2000 block of Brushy Creek Road on a private, undeveloped road just west of South Vista Ridge Boulevard.
The 16-year-old was reportedly trying to cross the train tracks when the MetroRail hit the tail end of his truck. He was taken to the hospital by a family member to be checked out.
Police cited the teen for failure to yield the right of way at a railroad crossing.
A 64-year-old man was injured after falling from a CapMetro train bridge early that evening after he was hit by the train.
Austin-Travis County EMS workers first believed the injured man either jumped from the bridge or was blown off by turbulence from the train. However, CapMetro spokeswoman Misty Whited said the man was hit by the train.
This marked the first collision with a pedestrian since the MetroRail launched its service, and it was the second wreck for the MetroRail since launching.
Whited said that while the entire rail is a no-trespassing area, the man was on a single-track bridge. The train was traveling southbound at 40 mph.
The incident happened at Adelphi Lane and Waters Park Road, near Parmer Lane in Northwest Austin.
The man was awake and alert when the medical crew arrived, and he had multiple leg fractures.
Paramedics transported the man to Round Rock Hospital.
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