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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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Bonfire victims’ hometowns recognized with portals

 
 

In 12 cities across three states, households remain empty after 12 Aggie students were killed in the 1999 Bonfire collapse. Tomorrow, families and friends from these 12 cities will come together in College Station to remember and honor the fallen Aggies.
At 2:30 p.m., 12 granite portals, each facing a deceased students’ hometown, will be dedicated at the Bonfire Memorial Dedication.
“(The students) were all there at that one moment in time, although they came from different places,” said Wynn Rosser, co-chairman of the Bonfire Memorial Committee and assistant vice president for Student Affairs. “(The portals) represent the individual. It’s about the collective Aggie Spirit.”
The 16-foot-tall portals comprise the last section of the three-part Bonfire memorial. The entrance plaza chronicles the history of Bonfire tradition and a connecting path will lead visitors through the 89-year history of Bonfire, leading to the center pole site that consists of the 12 portals and 27 stones that make up the Spirit Ring.
The Bonfire Memorial Committee began organizing the memorial in Spring 2000 and looked at potential designs from many firms, eventually narrowing the choices down to four designs before choosing the final design, Rosser said. While the idea to have the portals face the hometown of each fallen Aggie was a design decision of Overland Partners, Inc., the firm who submitted the winning design. The families were involved as well, he said.
“In the individual memorialization (of each student), the families put in a great deal of input,” Rosser said.
With support from their hometowns, the families will play a role in the memorial dedication as well.
“All of my family, with the exception of my son-in-law, will be able to be there,” said Neva Hand, mother of victim Jamie Lynn Hand. ” Hopefully it will be more of a celebration of our students’ lives.”
Hand, a schoolteacher in Henderson, said quite a few teachers and administrators, including those who taught Jamie, will be in attendance at the memorial, along with other Henderson Aggies.
“The Aggie family is really tight,” Hand said. “I was surprised at the number of people who said that they want to be there for us and with us.”
Although it has been five years since Bonfire fell, Hand said the support from the people in Henderson began as soon as the news about the collapse was heard.
“The town was on pins and needles. They were looking for information all day long,” Hand said. “When they found out Jamie had been killed, the town rallied around us. It was an overwhelming outpouring of love and compassion.”
Although Santa Fe, Texas, hometown of Miranda Denise Adams, does not plan on commemorating her death locally, Mayor Robert Cheek said her death is still being remembered.
“We get reminded of (the collapse) each year, but haven’t done anything locally to commemorate it,” Cheek said. “Our hearts went out then and still do today.”
Rosser said the portals are more than a representation of the students’ hometowns.
“(The portals) help us understand the Aggie spirit by understanding why they were (at Bonfire),” he said.

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