On Nov. 18 at 2:42 a.m., people gathered both virtually and in person, to honor the 12 fallen Aggies of the Bonfire Collapse.
Similar to Texas A&M traditions such as Silver Taps, the Bonfire Remembrance ceremony was moved from solely online delivery to online and in-person. According to Remembering Bonfire, the Bonfire Memorial was erected in 2004 in remembrance of the 12 A&M students killed in the 1999 Bonfire Collapse. The memorial includes many features such as lights along the path to the collapse site that mark each year Bonfire burned, as well as personalized portals for each collapse victim and a marker for each of the 27 people injured in the event.
The Bonfire was built originally as a celebration before the University of Texas football game each year, but grew to be a tradition valued by students, according to the Remembering Bonfire website.
“From its inception as a scrap heap in 1907 to the more familiar stack of vertical logs, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Bonfire symbolized every Aggie’s ‘burning desire’ to beat the University of Texas in football,” the website reads.
The A&M Traditions Council website states the traits that went into the Bonfire Memorial embody what the tradition meant to the students.
“The Spirit Ring surrounds the site of the 1999 Bonfire and represents the Aggie Spirit that unites individuals into something greater than themselves,” the website reads. “The 12 portals are oriented toward the hometowns of those who perished in the collapse. From different backgrounds, communities and beliefs, these students converged on this field, along with many of their fellow Aggies to celebrate the Aggie Spirit.”
Bonfire Remembrance Committee Chair Kate Wynn said since the creation of the Memorial, a ceremony has taken place every year on the anniversary of collapse to honor the fallen Aggies.
“It’s a very unique ceremony; it’s very moving and it’s a really cool part of what it means to be an Aggie, just to see how they lived out that Aggie Spirit in such a phenomenal way, and the really amazing way that we can honor them and their families,” Wynn said.
Among the changes to the ceremony due to the COVID-19 precautions put in place, students were only able to stand outside of the circle containing the 12 portals, called the Spirit Ring.
“We made the final decision this past week with approval to hold it in person, but this year we are incorporating masks and social distancing,” Wynn said. “The most major change this year will be that the Spirit Ring will be reserved exclusively for the families of the 12.”
Student Bonfire Board Member Dion McInnis, Class of ‘03, said he sees students memorializing the lost Aggies in multiple ways.
“True memorial is an act,” McInnis said. “We find it in the actions of Aggies who put themselves in the boots of Aggies we lost to know them through shared experience, to live their memory, and so keep that memory alive. And we find it in the actions of Aggies who take time every year to mark the passing and honor the lives of these beloved Aggies lost. It is through these students’ actions now that the memory of each of the 12 truly lives to this day.”
Below is a list of the 12 Aggies lost in Bonfire Collapse:
Miranda Denise Adams ‘02
Christopher David Breen ‘96
Michael Stephen Ebanks ‘03
Jeremy Richard Frampton ‘99
Jamie Lynn Hand ‘03
Christopher Lee Heard ‘03
Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr ‘03
Lucas John Kimmel ‘03
Bryan Allen McClain ‘02
Chad Anthony Powell ‘03
Jerry Don Self ‘01
Nathan Scott West ‘02