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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

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
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A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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For the second time in three seasons, No. 3 national seed Texas A&M baseball will host the Bryan-College Station Regional, where it’ll...

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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Firm says memorial gives glimpses into Bonfire victims’ personalities

In an emotional presentation Wednesday night in Rudder Theater, Robert Shemwell, memorial project leader at Overland Partners Inc., discussed the design process, construction and symbolism of the Bonfire Memorial.
Shemwell, Class of 1982, said design objectives of the memorial were commemorations of the tragedy, a celebration of unity and a reflection of Bonfire history.
“The key to the project was to say what needed to be said and to say no more, ” Shemwell said.
Since 1909, the student-constructed Bonfire burned before the annual Texas A&M football game against the University of Texas, symbolizing A&M’s “burning desire” to beat UT. On Nov. 18, 1999, Bonfire collapsed, killing 12 students and injuring 27 others.
The memorial design was chosen as part of a national design competition that began in March 2001 and concluded a year later. Construction on the memorial began in 2002 and was completed earlier this month.
The Bonfire Memorial, which will be dedicated Thursday at 2:30 p.m., consists of three elements. The Tradition Plaza, designed as a space for gathering and reflecting, is the gateway to the Memorial and consists of the Spirit Wall and the Last Corps Trip Wall. The History Walk, which faces north, is paved with 89 granite stones representing the 90-year history of Bonfire, with two gaps representing the only years Bonfire did not burn due to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1999 Bonfire collapse. The Spirit Ring surrounds the site of the 1999 Bonfire, with 12 engraved bronze portals commemorating the individuals who died when Bonfire fell.
“We wanted to make sure you’d walk away with a glimpse of who they were,” Shemwell said. “And how do you know them? By their name, face, signature, class year, what they thought and what others thought about them.”
The portals are connected by 27 stones with bronze inlays in recognition of those who were injured. A black granite marker in the center of the Spirit Ring marks the location of the 1999 centerpole and is engraved with the date and time Bonfire fell. The perimeter of the Spirit Ring serves as a compass, acknowledging the direction A&M provides to students, Shemwell said.
Josh McCamy, a sophomore general studies major, said he thinks the Bonfire Memorial is creative.
“I thought that the symbol based (on) the students filling (the) void was pretty creative, as well as the concept of the Spirit Ring and all the little things that they did to make it as special as they could,” he said.
Shemwell said the stone of the memorial represents the Aggie spirit and the ideas of time, tradition, and history. The bronze represents those who died or were injured. Stepping into the portals represents filling the void of those killed and represents the spirit of the Twelfth Man.
“The essence of the Twelfth Man tradition is being there for buddies, stepping in when you could be there. You have the opportunity to step in and complete the circle,” Shemwell said.
Clay Taylor, a freshman telecommunications and media studies major, said the presentation helped him achieve a greater understanding of the Bonfire tragedy.
“I understand what Bonfire was about, seeing the dedication and hard work that went into (the memorial) and the emotion and physical labor that went into creating it,” Taylor said.

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