Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
Even 10 years later, it's one of the hardest things for a mother and father to look back on.
"I finally got his room cleaned up last week," Walieta Kimmel said. "We just left it."
Lucas John Kimmel was 19, a freshman at Texas A&M when the Bonfire collapsed in 1999. He was a member of the Class of 2003 and of the Corps of Cadets.
But, below the surface, there was so much more. To his parents, Walieta and James, he was their fifth child. The youngest, which, said his mother, meant he was especially cherished.
"He was born to a family of four kids already," Walieta said. "They were 10, 12, 15 and 17 when he was born. So, he was the love of everybody in the family."
Lucas' love for the outdoors personified him. It gave him the chance to be outdoors, and it gave him the chance to be with the animal life that he appreciated so much. This appreciation led him to A&M in hopes of someday becoming a veterinarian.
"He was an outdoor kid," Walieta said. "He loved animals. We lived out in the country. He found a baby bird in the field and we rescued it and got it growing up. Dogs, cats, rabbits. That's why he wanted to be a veterinarian."
After graduating from Tulosa-Midway High School in Corpus Christi, Lucas came to A&M in fall 1999 following in his brother Matthew's footsteps. And, like his brother, he was outfitted in Company B-2.
Given his love of the outdoors, it was only natural that Lucas would love being a part of Bonfire. The year prior, Lucas had asked for an axe for Christmas just so he could help with the storied tradition.
Early on the morning of Nov. 18, 1999, the stack of thousands of logs collapsed, killing 12 students and injuring at least 27 others. Bonfire was canceled for that year and has not burned on campus since.
On that fateful morning, just days after Lucas' 19th birthday, Walieta and James knew something was wrong.
"We couldn't believe it," Walieta said. "My son, Matt, was on the way to work, and he said Bonfire fell. And I said Lucas was on it. I know he was. He loved to climb, but he said freshman and sophomores aren't allowed on stack. Don't worry. So, we went through that whole day. We didn't find out until about 4 or 5 in the evening that they found him."
He was buried a few days later in front of thousands in his hometown.
The things his parents remember most about their last-born child is his spirituality along with the family ideals he possessed.
"He was an uncle," Walieta said. "He was very proud of it. In kindergarten, he asked me, 'Nobody believes I'm an uncle. Can I take her to show and tell?' And, I was like 'no, honey.'"
The Catholic Eagle Scout set an example to his nephews and nieces before his death. Many of them attended Texas A&M and carried on the Aggie tradition.
Even 10 years down the road, the lessons he taught the people around him are still prevalent.
"I'll always remember it," Walieta said. "He always said, if you put God first in your life, everything falls into place."
"There is living and there is existing. If you are living, life will take your breath. In tasting honey you may get a sting, but life stagnant is worse than death. Bite into life and let the juice run down. Lives are not measured with chances untook. Enjoy the blooms now, in time they'll be brown. Chances for lovers are often forsook. Forget all the past, look not for your fate. Take life by the horns and live for today. Hard times will come if you rush the gate, but interesting people have suffered worse fate. Take hold of the world and go for a ride, 'cause not all men live, but everyone dies."
inscription from Kimmel's Bonfire Memorial portal