“From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
As Aggies, we all recognize this quote and probably use it on a daily basis when trying to explain some tradition to someone outside of A&M. As true as this quote is, however, sometimes it doesn’t always apply. Sometimes you’re on the inside looking out when all of a sudden, someone standing right next to you doesn’t understand it. What happens then?
My sophomore year was also my first year on Traditions Council, and I was so passionate about this organization that everyone in my outfit knew about it. One day, one of my juniors posed a very tough question to me.
Why do we still hold Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony, even though it has been so long? Why do we honor these students in such a unique way? Yes, they died tragically in an accident, but they didn’t intentionally lay their lives down for this university. So what makes them different than the other students who have died while enrolled here?
I had no answer for him. I was stunned. What kind of Aggie would ask questions like that? While he meant no disrespect and was in no way trying to say we should no longer hold the ceremony, I was still absolutely floored. I stumbled through a few generic, meaningless sentences, but just couldn’t find the right answer.
I’ve thought about that conversation a lot since then. I’m still close with my friend and I see him often, however I’ve never brought up that conversation since that night. I think now, I’m finally ready to give that answer.
Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony is important because it’s who we are. It’s our history, our tradition, our tragedy. It’s our spirit that can ne’er be told. On November 18, 1999, 12 Aggies died while working on Bonfire. They didn’t go out there with the mindset of giving their life for Bonfire or for this school. They did, however, go out there with the mindset that they were going to give every last bit of themselves to the tradition and the school they held so dear. This is the reason we honor them to this day and forevermore.
We honor them because in many ways the 12 who died could be any of the countless students who have called Texas A&M home — even you and I. Jeremy Frampton wrote poetry. Miranda Denise Adams dreamt of receiving her Fightin’ Texas Aggie Ring. Christopher Heard enjoyed smoking cigars and dancing. I think any Aggie can relate to at least one of these.
We remember these 12 Aggies every year not only because they lost their life in a tragic accident, but also because their passion and love for Texas A&M epitomized what it means to be a Texas Aggie. Their lives were lives we should all strive to live. They were the Aggies we should all hope to be.
We hold this ceremony to remember how a campus can come together in a time of loss. How a devastating tragedy can build up a community. How the Aggie Spirit can burn, even without a sixty-foot Bonfire.
In the end, Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony isn’t just a tradition — it’s the manifestation of the resiliency, strength and love that all Aggies have.
It was once said that the Aggie Bonfire didn’t build the Aggie Spirit, but rather it was the Aggie Spirit that built Bonfire. While Bonfire may no longer be built on campus today, I encourage you all to come out on Wednesday morning, 2:42 a.m., Nov. 18, brave the wind and cold, and stand with thousands of other Aggies. While there may not be an Aggie Bonfire there, I can promise you’ll see thousands of Aggie Spirits burning brighter than any bonfire ever could.
Cody Buczyna is a management senior and
serves as the Service and Bonfire Remembrance
committee chair for Traditions Council.