While visiting College Station we stopped by the Bonfire Memorial.
I was attending Texas A&M when the horrific event happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was awakened in my dorm early in the morning by a call from my Daddy. He was noticeably very emotional as he asked if I was ok. There was silence and I knew he was crying…a man who never cried. He went on to tell me that there had been an accident. A bad accident. He was afraid I was involved. He went on to tell me what he had heard from the news. The Bonfire had collapsed and students were hurt and some reported to be gone. My heart stopped.
That day on campus was a very sad day. Things were different. I went home for Thanksgiving like many others and prayed for those souls and their families. The amazing students were suddenly gone forever.
For those who are not familiar with the famous Texas A&M Bonfire it a long tradition for Aggies! I was excited to experience it. It was always burned the week that we played University of Texas which was also Thanksgiving week. It was BIG deal. It was student run.
“From its inception as a scrap heap in 1907 to the more familiar and stack of vertical logs, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Bonfire symbolized every Aggie’s “burning desire” to beat the University of Texas in football. Attracting between 30,000 and 70,000 people each year to watch it burn, Bonfire became a symbol of the deep and unique camaraderie that is the Aggie Spirit.
Bonfire burned each year through 1998, with the exception of 1963. That year Bonfire was built but torn down in a tribute to President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. The second time in A&M’s history that Bonfire did not burn was almost exactly 92 years after the first Bonfire due to its collapse on Nov. 18, 1999 at 2:42 a.m. The collapse claimed the lives of 12 Aggies and injured 27 others.
The Bonfire Memorial embodies many layers of meaning associated with the Aggie Spirit — a deep sense of belonging, a strong spirit of teamwork, and leadership and an enduring sense of tradition that unites thousands. The Bonfire Memorial celebrates the tradition, history, and spirit of Texas A&M and the dedication of those involved in the tragic collapse of the 1999 Bonfire. Uniting Aggies past, present and future, the Memorial is comprised of three design elements: The Tradition Plaza marks the entrance to the memorial and reflects on the activities that bring Aggies together. Spirit Wall separates the outer world from the intimate experience of the memorial, while the Last Corps Trip Wall recites the poem traditionally read prior to the lighting of Bonfire each year. Source: Texas A&M
Five years later, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated on the exact location of the fallen 1999 Bonfire. The Bonfire Memorial comprises three sections, each evoking a particular aspect of the Aggie Bonfire: tradition, history and spirit.
We were able to visit the Bonfire Memorial during spring break. It is a beautiful tribute to those souls taken too soon. I was overwhelmed with emotions. There on that same spot where I saw the flashing lights, tears, ambulances, and hundreds of students standing in prayer. I was able to share this huge memory with my kids.
I think the best way to share about this is to just show you.
The 12 Aggies who lost their lives in the 1999 collapse were:
For more on the Bonfire and the memorial visit Texas A&M.