Just south of Texas A&M’s campus stands a different memorial dedicated to the 12 Aggies killed in the Bonfire collapse of 1999, created by the City of College Station in their honor.
On Nov. 18, 2000, the city officially opened the memorial to the public, calling it the “Twelve Poles of Light.” Located in Brison Park, 12 antique lamp posts stand along a path, each accompanied by a cast aluminum plaque with the name of one of the 12 who lost their lives in the Bonfire tragedy. College Station City Councilman Dennis Maloney, who was an integral part of establishing the memorial, said a few years before Bonfire fell, he was on the College Station Preservation Committee that was responsible for getting street lamps placed in Brison Park. Coincidentally, 12 light posts were constructed in the park, which is located right across the street from the old Duncan Drill Field where Bonfire was previously held.
“It was just strange to me that we had twelve lights there and it was twelve kids, and it was right across the street from where Bonfire had been held for so many decades,” Maloney said. “It just felt so fitting, like all the pieces fit together. It took no persuading at all, everyone wanted to do something. You don’t want to forget those lives.”
Royce Hickman, community liaison for the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce and a member of the committee that planned the opening ceremony of the memorial, said the city knew it had to do something to remember the fallen Aggies and help the community heal in any way it could.
“It’s just important for Aggies to remember them and the general public to get a glimpse into their commitment to an Aggie tradition,” Hickman said. “It was a difficult thing for us to come to grips with, and the memorial was an important step in the healing process. It would have been tragic not to keep the lives and the dreams of those 12 people alive.”
According to Jay Socol, director of public communications for the City of College Station, most visitors to Brison Park don’t go to the park for the memorial, nor do they know it’s there, but once the first plaque is spotted, they can’t avoid seeing them. Socol said the memorial is a way to inform visitors of College Station’s history, while honoring those lost to the Bonfire collapse.
“The memorials from the city are very understated,” Socol said. “But there is a very clear purpose behind them. The memorial is not the main focus of Brison Park by any means, but it is a discreet level of respect and recognition of what happened. I think that’s what makes it even more attractive — the way it is discreetly blended into the beauty of Brison Park.”
Maloney said the College Station Bonfire Memorial in Brison Park will remain standing forever as a way to honor and recognize the 12 fallen Aggies’ undying Aggie Spirit.
“At A&M and in College Station, we are so steeped in tradition and in history that nothing is forgotten,” Maloney said. “The park is there as a reminder to visitors that this is who we are and these were people who were important in our community, just as every student is. This is who we are: College Station, Texas, the home of Texas A&M University. None of us will forget that.”