Bonfire Memorial

Aggies gather once more to honor the spirit of those lost in the Bonfire tragedy.

As the years go by, Aggies will always remember the fallen 12.

Nov. 18, 1999, forever changed Texas A&M and the Aggie community. Even though many current students weren’t alive when the Bonfire collapse happened nearly a generation ago, they are still impacted by the accident and grieve the lives lost. Visualization sophomore Cameron Close said Bonfire Remembrance helps the Aggie community remember what those who died stood for.

“They died doing what they loved, seeing as they were dedicated enough to do it at almost [3 a.m.],” Close said. “That’s the heart and dedication they put into it. Remembering them is more than just remembering their death and their enrollment at A&M. It’s about the Spirit of Aggieland.”

Industrial distribution senior Harley Avery said Bonfire Remembrance portrays how the Aggie Spirit is ever-continuing and undying, and is a way how Aggies young and old can come together and remember our history.

“It’s a memorial to the way the community came together and the way that the campus came together,” Avery said. “And it’s a living memorial for the students that passed; it’s a way that we can make sure that we never forget them. They were out there because of their undying love for A&M and its traditions. They were out there doing what they loved. It’s so important for us as a student body to remember that they were Aggies just like us. They were just students — students who had a passion for the university and students who had a passion for the traditions … that’s something that we as Aggies should embody. That love for our university, that love for our traditions, but mostly that love for other Aggies.”

Bonfire Remembrance is a way for students to remember why the Aggie Spirit is important and how it continues to be important even as university traditions evolve, Avery said.

“As our school evolves and grows, [Bonfire] is a way to remember that it really is from ‘Howdy’ to ‘Here,’” Avery said. “It doesn’t just stop at ‘Here’ — we will always remember our Aggies because they’re always going to be a member of our family. The second you step foot on this campus, you’re one of us. ‘Us’ is the Aggie community and the Aggie Spirit; we’re all in it together no matter what and no matter what our differences.”

As a member of outfit C-2 in the Corps of Cadets, Close said the Corps has many specific traditions they partake in to honor Bonfire.

“We have dorm logs that are the biggest logs that we cut down toward the end of the Bonfire season,” Close said. “Each crew gets one, and we carve Nathan Scott West’s initials, NSW, into it because he was the cadet from C-2 who died. A lot of people carve his initials into their axe handles, which they use during Bonfire, and it symbolizes that even though something tragic happened, we proudly stand to continue their legacy and continue what they loved doing.”

Close said despite interfering beliefs among the Corps about continuing to do Student Bonfire, C-2 still makes sure to honor and know the name of the Cadet who was lost without allowing individual opinions to get in the way of remembering Nathan Scott West.

Biology sophomore Sophia Polisetty said even though she’s from an Aggie family, she never understood the magnitude and significance of Bonfire Remembrance until she came to A&M.

“It truly gave me this realization that remembering somebody is an action — it’s not just a thought,” Polisetty said. “Those people who pulled their peers out of the stack, those that were building it in the first place, those who tried to save as many Aggies as they could and those that we couldn’t save — we should still be taking actions to try and save their memories.”

Polisetty said Bonfire Remembrance means a lot to her because she can honor the memory of those affected by the tragedy and continue to take action to preserve their stories. People can always remember something, but one must make a decision to take action for remembrance, Polisetty said.

“Collapse was a tragedy. It had so many opportunities to pull us apart and make this institution feel weak, or that we weren’t able to grow,” Polisetty said. “But I think instead of bouncing back and pretending like it didn’t happen, A&M was able to grow so much as an Aggie family, and we realized how much stronger we truly are together. Even just the stories of the football team coming in and offering like their practices to come and pull logs out of stack — truly every part of campus came together. And that’s something that we can always look to as inspiration.”

Animal science and agriculture leadership junior Dylan Sione, Bonfire Remembrance chair, said the tradition is the ultimate example of the Aggie family.

“As an institution, I think Bonfire Remembrance is the way that we live out the Spirit of Aggieland,” Sione said. “[Bonfire] is the way that we live out the beliefs that we espouse: respect, loyalty and integrity of what we believe. When we sing ‘The Spirit of Aggieland’ and we sing the chorus, ‘We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we,’ I think that Bonfire Remembrance is a physical embodiment of that, because it’s the way that we remember these students, both as individuals and as a collective part of A&M.”

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