As the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Bonfire collapse approaches, Traditions Council is offering opportunities to honor and remember the lives that were lost.
In the week leading up to the Bonfire Remembrance ceremony, held on Nov. 18 at 2:42 a.m., Traditions Council will have a Reflections Display in the MSC Flag Room featuring photos and a description of the collapse. A member of Traditions Council will accompany the display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and answer questions from visitors. Students will also have the opportunity to attend on campus showings of the 2009 documentary “The Burning Desire,” which will be screened on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Hullabaloo Hall Room 117 and Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in The Commons Room 109.
Bonfire Remembrance & Service Committee Chair and biomedical science senior Brooke Wilson said the film covers the eight days from the Bonfire collapse to the rivalry football game against Texas, showing how the Aggie community came together after the tragedy. The 68-minute film was produced by 12th Man Productions and released November of 2009 to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the collapse, according to 12thMan.com.
“We are offering more showings to get more students to watch the film and help them understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Wilson said. “Especially since so many freshmen and sophomores weren’t even born when Stack collapsed.”
Wilson said the Reflections Display is meant to give students and visitors a complete understanding of Bonfire’s history so they can see how the tragedy united A&M.
“We want to give the students the opportunity to see the tradition from how it was before [the collapse], through the tragedy and how we united after that,” Wilson said. “We want to give them the whole picture.”
Kristen Sarna, Traditions Council chair and environmental studies senior, said the display offers students a chance to learn about how the university was impacted by the collapse and allows them to feel a connection to those who suffered through the tragedy.
“There’s a difference between hearing, ‘20 years ago, Stack collapsed and people were injured’ and seeing pictures of what happened,” Sarna said. “There’s just such a difference when people can visually connect with what happened. It makes it a lot more real for them.”
Accompanying the Reflections Display will be paintings by the visual arts students of Assistant Professor Benjamin Knox, who is known for his gallery of paintings featuring historical images of Aggieland.
“He’s having his students paint the scene of Bonfire Memorial and how they interpret it differently,” Wilson said. “They will put a layer on top [of the painting] and etch the faces of the 12 into it.”
Economics senior and Public Relations Chair of Traditions Council Michael Osborn said if visitors aren’t able to attend the Bonfire Remembrance, a livestream of the Yell Leaders conducting the ceremony will be available on the Traditions Council’s Facebook page.
“[It’s] for members of the community and the Aggie family who can’t make it into town,” Osborn said. “The event will be recorded later on for Facebook so they can see what the tradition is and be a part of it.”
Traditions Council encourages attendees to dress warmly and hydrate before the ceremony, and if plans for the ceremony change, the organization will let visitors know well ahead of time.
“We won’t be making any calls at 1 a.m.,” Wilson said. “People won’t be getting up and walking out there and we’re [saying], ‘Oh no, it’s not happening.’ There will be plenty of updates going out on our social media accounts and through email.”
Despite how far removed current students may be from the event, the Bonfire ceremony reminds students of the strength of the Aggie family, Osborn said.
“In the future, I hope to continue seeing that every year, the same spirit for the families and for the students even as we move to students who have less and less connection to that time,” Osborn said. “They can foster that connection through Bonfire Remembrance with these Aggies and with the spirit of Bonfire every year.”