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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Remembering the fallen in moonlight

Photo by Melanie McBride

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

Over twenty years ago, a yearly tradition turned fatal when the annual bonfire at Texas A&M fell, killing 12 people and injuring 27 others. Five years later, a memorial was resurrected in the exact spot to honor the victims.

During this year’s Howdy Week, Memorial Student Center, or MSC, Hospitality will host a Bonfire Memorial tour from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm on Sunday, Aug. 21. The event provides new and returning students an opportunity to remember the victims of the 1999 Bonfire at a tranquil hour.

MSC Hospitality Committee Chair and public health junior Abby Alquiza said the committee focuses primarily on community and belonging.

“In the Bryan-College Station area, we do many different service events and high-impact programs, like the Moonlight Memorial Tour,” Alquiza said. “We also work a lot with children. MSC Hospitality is involved in any community building that serves others.”
MSC Hospitality hosts bonfire memorial tours on a regular basis during the school year. Executive Director of Tours and Traditions and biology sophomore Keaton Johnson said the idea to give a special moonlight during Howdy Week came about in only recent years.
“Starting recently, every year in Howdy Week, we started doing a bigger event with Bonfire Memorial tours,” Keaton said. “The main reason we do this event during Howdy Week is that it’s a time where everyone has time to attend. The tours bring in a great audience to hear the story and honor the victims of the Bonfire collapse.”

The tours will run every 30 minutes under the guidance of knowledgeable committee members. Johnson said MSC Hospitality has smoothed out the details and logistics of the event accordingly.

“We will divide the tour groups based on the number of attendees,” Johnson said. “There will be six to eight tour guides and five to 10 volunteer members for crowd control. The tours usually take a little under 30 minutes. We start at the Spirit Wall and read the ‘Last Corps Trip.’ We then go through History Walk where we tell the story, give key facts and talk about significant deaths. We conclude with the Spirit Ring and show the portals with the 12 victims.”

MSC Hospitality is one of only two groups that give tours of the Bonfire Memorial. Alquiza said being a part of the MSC’s student programs provides great opportunities for her and her fellow members.

“We have great support from our advisors,” Alquiza said. “While we are student run, the MSC oversees our programs and service events, really focusing on diversity and inclusion. I think this gives our members a unique experience to be a part of something larger.”

While MSC Hospitality has annual events like the Moonlight Bonfire Memorial Tour, the committee spreads acts of service over the entire academic year. There is a variety of service events the committee hosts, such as a kindergarten book tour, building with Habitat for Humanity and speaking with seniors at Waterfront Senior Center.

Vice Chair and accounting junior Nathan Matous said his favorite part of these service projects is the impact they leave on community members.

“My favorite service event would have to be our kindergarten book tour,” Matous said. “That’s where we go to about 20 local elementary schools. We visit the schools for a one-to-two-hour block for two weeks and read a couple of books to the kids. We then donate one to two books to each kid. Last year, we donated over 4,000 books.”
You can learn more about the Moonlight Memorial Tour at the schedule of events on the Howdy Week website. To book a Bonfire Memorial tour, schedule an appointment at MSC Hospitality’s website.

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