Twelve years later, remember the fallen 12
Twelve years ago, on November 18, 1999, at 2:42 am, a favorite Texas A&M Aggie Tradition turned into an Aggie Tragedy. One that makes all Aggies pause — and will bring a tear to the eye.
Since the initial Bonfire in 1909, Texas A&M students have banded together each year to build and burn the Bonfire, and in the process helped it to evolve into the largest in the world. 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 November 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 November 18th, 1999 at 2:42 a.m. The collapse killed 12 Aggies and injured 27 others. Five years later, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated on the exact location of the ’99 Bonfire.*
The Bonfire has not OFFICIALLY burned since that fateful night, twelve years ago. There have been off-campus bonfires, but it is no longer a University-sanctioned event.
It seems almost… I don’t know… poetic, I suppose, the it is 12 years after that collapse that we look at facing Texas for the last time.
From its inception as a scrap heap to the more familiar and impressive stack of vertical logs, the 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. *
In an even deeper stab to Aggie hearts is the fact that it was 12 Aggies that died in the collapse. Texas A&M is home of the 12th Man! The student body is the 12th Man. And we lost… 12 men (and women).
After the bonfire fell on November 18, overwhelming grief surrounded the university and the community. It was clear that the 12 students who died created a symbolic meaning from that number. †
We remember in our hearts today: Denise Adams, class of 2002; Christopher Breen, class of 1997; Michael Ebanks, class of 2003; Jeremy Framptom, class of 2000; Jaime Hand, class of 2003; Christopher Heard, class of 2002; Timothy Kerlee, Jr., class of 2003; Lucas Kimmel, class of 2003; Bryan McClain, class of 2003; Chad Powell, class of 2003; Jerry Self, class of 2002; and Nathan West, class of 2002.
The Aggie Spirit… Well. Our saying of, “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” And maybe today is one of those days that no one could possibly understand. I still get comments occasionally, “Oh yeah… aren’t ya’ll the ones that did that big burn thing?” And I try to keep my patience and know… no one can understand what Bonfire meant to Aggies, and what its come to mean today. But it sometimes makes me flinch deep down, and I usually do all I can to change the subject.
This tragedy tore at Aggie’s hearts that day, that week, that year… and still today. Any footage of that time brings tears to my eyes. Just today, at 2:42 am, I watched a video of the University of Texas band playing Amazing Grace at half-time of the 1999 game. I cried all over again. Just as I cried at that game that day.
It’s been 12 years, and life has continued on… but still we pause a moment to remember.
“There’s a Spirit, can ne’er be told… its the Spirit of Aggieland.”
I directly quoted from these sites in this post: