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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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Burning question – Return of Bonfire best memorial to deceased

 
 

“Noble souls, through dust and heat, rise from disaster and defeat the stronger.” These words, written by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, could describe the potential of Aggies-seeking, through growth and education, to become men and women with noble souls, learning how to live and how to deal with the trials of living.
Five years ago, Aggies were faced with one of the greatest trials in Texas A&M’s history. On Nov. 18, 1999, 12 Aggies were killed and 27 injured during the collapse of Bonfire. Today, the administration dedicates the memorial to that loss.
It goes without saying that the administration had good intentions when created a memorial it to bring healing to the living and tribute to the dead. However, memorializing their loss and discontinuing the tradition of Bonfire is not the best way to do so. In keeping with a truly American spirit, possessing a courageous heart and a noble soul, the best response to the tragedy would be to continue the work of those who died for it.
Death and tragedy are part of life. Bad things happen to us every day, but from the smallest annoyance to the worst heartbreak, the real test of character is whether a person focuses on the negative, or holds on to the belief that the good in the world is more important than the bad. In valuing the good, one must learn to always pick himself up and keep going. The English novelist William Thakeray once asked, “To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it – who can say this is not greatness?”
The building of the Bonfire Memorial effectively destroyed any hopes Aggies had of returning Bonfire to campus, due to the amount of land it occupies. The administration believed that Bonfire was too dangerous to be built again, and that a memorial was needed to honor those Aggies who fell five years ago. Yet, if it could be possible to ask those lost Aggies, if they would want us to sacrifice Bonfire to their tragedy, what would they say?
The fact is, each and every one of those students loved Bonfire, the tradition and the school that makes it great. They died doing something they loved, and met an honorable death in doing so.
The Bonfire Memorial Web site says it is dedicated to the Aggie Spirit, “with its deep sense of belonging, strong ethic of teamwork and leadership and enduring tradition that unites generations of Aggies.” While the memorial stands as a monument of these things, the greater monument would have been pressing on from a loss and seeking to ensure the perpetuation of Bonfire. The Roman poet Persius said, “He conquers who endures.” Throughout time, Aggies have overcome wars, natural disasters, terrorism and personal loss. In the end, the pride we have in our spirit comes from rising above.
Many students recognize this. These students have made the fate of this tradition their personal responsibility and built off-campus Bonfires in the years since. They recognize that Bonfire lasted almost a century, and like the tragedies that have occurred in human spaceflight, occasional disasters must not stop a dream. Bonfire is the unification of the Aggie Spirit, where students can come together for a common purpose and share in the joy of the task.
If the administration wishes to discontinue the tradition of Bonfire, it should at least recognize the Aggies’ desire to continue it off campus. It should not prevent yell leaders, band members or any other students from attending.
As the next generation of engineers, planners and creators, Aggies have the intelligence to learn ways to build Bonfire safely. As adults, Aggies must accept personal responsibility for their work and absolve the University of any responsibility should a mistake be made. On campus or off, Bonfire stands for things all Aggies can be proud of. On the anniversary of the loss of 12 family members, we should honor their deaths by continuing their work.
Mike Walters is a senior psychology major

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