Galveston Bonfire Remembrance

Students gather around the central campus location, the clocktower, for Bonfire remembrance at the Texas A&M University at Galveston campus.

Texas A&M University at Galveston students host a small ceremony at the center of their campus at 2:42 a.m. commemorating the 12 students who lost their lives in the Bonfire collapse.

The Galveston campus does not have a memorial, so students in the Traditions Council set out portraits around the base of the clocktower of those who are honored at the College Station memorial and light a candle in front of each as their names are called during the ceremony. Students are provided maroon ribbons, which they can pin to their clothing or backpacks showing their support of the tradition.

Marcus Wade, maritime administration senior and the chair for the Texas A&M – Galveston Traditions Council, said despite the size of the ceremony, it is still of strong importance to the community.

“It’s a very small ceremony, but still means a lot. It still has that impact,” Wade said. “Even though we may not be in College Station with the actual memorial, we still ensure that the tradition is alive and make sure that everyone is well aware of it so we can ensure that we remember those 12 that we lost.”

According to Wade, the tradition of Bonfire is to not only remember the 12 fallen Aggies, but to also recognize the bond Aggies share.

“The importance of Bonfire to me is that it shows how much Aggies really care about one another,” Wade said. “When that Bonfire collapsed killing 12 of our fellow Aggies, it really did hit the heart of Aggieland to show how one tradition transitioning into another.”

Joshua Porter, marine fisheries and marine biology junior, is a yell leader at Texas A&M – Galveston and a member of the Traditions Council. He sees Bonfire as another way to recognize the sense of the Aggie family.

“It’s what we do because we’re a family,” Porter said. “I wasn’t raised an Aggie, I wasn’t brought up to be redass or anything like that, but being a student these past couple of years has really made, basically, my identity as a Aggie real to me and the fact that we honor our fellow Aggies in such a way just makes that feeling more real.”

Porter added that for many Aggies at the Galveston campus, the 12 who died were close to home.

“A lot of them come from our hometowns and that’s crazy to think that could have been one of our friends,” Porter said. “At the [Traditions Council] table we try to basically help their names be known, that this is not something we should just pass over.”

Porter said many of his friends understand the significance of the memorial and remembrance because of their connections to those who were present when the collapse occurred.

“I even have friends that … have family members that were present or working on the structure itself before it collapsed,” Porter said. “So even though they aren’t there at main campus, they recognize that it could have been someone they knew very well.”

Porter said none of the fallen Aggies were from his hometown, but it’s a different case for Nick Kistler, last year’s senior head yell leader, who wore “Bonfire” across his midnight yell overalls.

“The tradition he put across his chest was Bonfire because one of the Aggie’s that fell was from his hometown, and that really resonated with him,” Porter said. “His respect for memorial and for the ceremony itself made me want to become involved.”

Kistler, a marine biology senior, said Bonfire was one of his favorite traditions because it connects a feeling to the image of the burning desire to beat the “ever living hell” out of Texas, as well as the remembrance of the loss of Aggies. 

“A lot of those Aggies were from this Houston area,” Kistler said. “Growing up in Friendswood I felt a connection with them and found that something so devastating happened; how everybody took time out of their lives to honor, to remember these fallen Aggies.”

Seen through the unconditional help of Aggies, Kistler said Bonfire is just another way for Aggies to show that they will support each other in times of need. 

“No matter who you are or where you’re from, we basically stop what we are doing to help others,” Kistler said. “So, for Bonfire Remembrance, it just shows that anything could happen in a blink of an eye, but also it shows that we are able to work together and show support for one another who need in any dire time.”

Despite the tragedy of those who were lost, Bonfire also represents the bond of the Aggie family for Kistler.

“Bonfire for me is that desire and passion to do what you want to do, but also it shows the support and the family based unit that we all have,” Kistler said. “And that’s why I’m proud to say I’m an Aggie.”

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