There isn't a whole lot about Bonfire I haven't said before. But I will say, I can't believe it's 12 years gone. It still seems like yesterday.


Bonfire ‘99

Miranda, Chris B., Michael, Jeremy, Jamie, Chris H., Tim, Lucas, Bryan, Chad, Jerry, Nathan

We remember. As long as there are Aggies, you will never be forgotten.
As long as there are Aggies, you will be remembered.

11.18.99
Ten years ago this morning, I got two calls before 6:00 am. I don’t remember my exact schedule, but I do know I probably didn’t have to be on campus before 9:00, so people didn’t usually call me at this time. I ignored the first call. I found out, later, in an unexpected way that it was my mom. But, the first call woke me up, so when the second call came, I answered it. It was my friend Eric. Bonfire collapsed, he said. “So what,” I answered, somewhat perturbed to have been woken up (I’m guessing I had rehearsal the night before). Bonfire had fallen in 1994. I knew. I grew up in College Station. They rebuilt it. What was the big deal?

Bonfire ’94 had fallen weeks before burn. When Bonfire ’94 fell, it was raining. The ground shifted and it fell. Bonfire ’99 fell during push. Bonfire ’99 fell at 2:42 in the morning. Bonfire ’99 fell with at least 60 people on site. Bonfire ’99 killed 12 students and injured 27 more. That, Kelly, was the big deal.

Just after 6:00, my mother knocked on my apartment door, just this side of panicked because I didn’t answer the phone and she knew what I didn’t. I say just this side of panicked because she stopped for donuts. Yes, my family has an unhealthy relationship with food.

We watched the news (hey, we made the national news!) and ate our donuts until it was time to go to work and class. I don’t remember much about that day. I do remember walking to my Beginning Drawing class (which I fucking hated, and doesn’t that seem unimportant now) and hearing helicopters. At least two news helicopters (Mom says it was four), their noise echoing so loudly between the buildings that I thought the sound was inside me as I walked to the architecture building. It's amazing how many people recall that detail, the campus was silent, save for the noise of the helicopters infecting everything. We all hoped our prof would take pity on us and dismiss class. But no, we drew still life of one form or another, no one really there, everyone a few hundred yards away on the polo field.

We went to the polo field, stood silent vigil, walked, prayed, dealt. We had a tough week. Elephant Walk, I recall, was particularly miserable. We beat t.u. We started to heal.

Today is the 10th anniversary of Bonfire ’99. Today would have been Bonfire’s centennial. What an amazing celebration that would have been.

I have amazing memories of eight Bonfires, which is double what most students got to experience. Being a townie isn’t all bad. Bonfire ’98 was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Had I known then, I wouldn’t have done anything differently, but I would commit so much more to memory.

I don’t think Bonfire will ever return to campus. You have to weigh the cost. The price of 12 brothers and sisters is much too high. We are a community steeped in tradition. In discussing the Bonfire of ’63, the only other Bonfire not to burn (in honor of JFK), a Yell Leader said, “it was the most we had, and the least we could give.” I feel the same way about Bonfire now. We honor the dead with the most we have and the least we can give. They gave much more.

Monday, I was able to read all the way through this month’s Texas Monthly article, which took over 100 hours of interviews and gave a timeline of those events, from first cut to the victory over Texas. It was the first time I have ever been able to read anything about Bonfire ’99. Please don’t mistake this statement for hyperbole. I have never been able to stomach the thought of what happened. I have a stack of magazines and newspaper articles from ’99 that are sitting in my cedar chest, waiting to be read. I’ve never opened one of them.

It hurts. It hurts like today is November 19, 1999. If it hurts me this much, I know there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Aggies out there who hurt just as much as I do, and some so much more. Those that lost a best friend. A son. A sister. A buddy.

I attended both the Bonfire Memorial and the 2:42 service last night. It was hard. It was moving. But it was strange to stand there with a crowd of people who had never seen a Bonfire (a real Bonfire). These kids were in Elementary when this happened. But, the Spirit is still there. It’s not the same. But, I suppose it never is, is it?



Bonfire ‘99

Miranda, Chris B., Michael, Jeremy, Jamie, Chris H., Tim, Lucas, Bryan, Chad, Jerry, Nathan

We remember. As long as there are Aggies, you will never be forgotten.




It's the Spirit of Aggieland.
"It's just another Corps trip, boys. We'll march in behind the band."

For some reason, I cannot bring myself to talk about Bonfire today. I can't believe it's nine years past. And it still hurts like it was yesterday.

Bonfire '99

Miranda, Chris B., Michael, Jeremy, Jamie, Chris H., Tim, Lucas, Bryan, Chad, Jerry, Nathan...you are still in our hearts. We miss you.

There's a spirit can ne'er be told...it's the spirit of Aggieland.


Today is Bonfire Memorial Day. I know this means very little to many of you, but I'm finally at a place where I can at least talk about it.

Six years ago today, 12 of my brothers and sisters died on campus when the bonfire they were building collapsed around them. They died participating in one of our schools most honored traditions. None of the students that died that night were friends of mine. The only person I knew on stack that night left at 1:30 AM, just an hour before collapse, and I still thank God for that. Of course, that doesn't make their deaths any less painful to anyone that calls himself an Aggie.

I wasn't on stack that night. In fact, I didn't participate at all that year. My Senior year. I was working on my first lighting design for the Theater Program. Coach called us all together the night after. "This is what it means to attend this school," he told us. And the entire cast and crew left from Rudder and walked to the memorial at Reed, sat together, cried together, held our breath as thousands of students stood in silence even after the program was over, then spontaneously put arms around shoulders and sang Amazing Grace. That moment will never leave me.

When you visited the site in the days after, people left mementos and flowers. But people left their Aggie Rings at the base of the Academic flagpole, as well. "Let them wear it for a while since they won't get to," was what the first person who left his wrote on a short note. And he knew his ring would be there when he came back to claim it, as did the dozens who followed. They knew because Aggies don't lie, cheat or steal, nor do they tolerate those who do.

I got to visit the Bonfire Memorial on my trip home in September. It was quite a moving experience. I went at about 8AM. It was the perfect time of day. Nice and cool, and very peaceful. I was the only person there. I wanted to walk to where centerpole was, but I felt like that grass was like that around the MSC, a living memorial to the twelve.

Here are some pictures I took that morning. )

Bonfire '99

Miranda, Chris B., Michael, Jeremy, Jamie, Chris H., Tim, Lucas, Bryan, Chad, Jerry, Nathan...you are still in our hearts. We miss you.

...it's the Spirit of Aggieland.
Bonfire '99

November 18, 1999

How can five years have possibly gone by?

Miranda, Chris B., Michael, Jeremy, Jamie, Chris H., Tim, Lucas, Bryan, Chad, Jerry, Nathan

We Remember


...It's the Spirit of Aggieland

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