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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

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)
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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.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Victims of Bonfire collapse remembered by thousands exactly five years later

 
 

A solemn mist blanketed the amber glow of the Bonfire Memorial Thursday at 2:42 a.m. as thousands gathered to remember the 12 Aggies who died in the Bonfire collapse exactly five years earlier.
“It was hard to tell (how many people were in attendance) because it was so misty, so foggy – which I think was really rather appropriate because … the lack of visual clarity was sort of representative of my emotions, especially the day after (Bonfire) fell. You almost didn’t know what to feel,” said Jennifer Grantham, Class of 2003, who attended Texas A&M when Bonfire fell in 1999. “(The day after Bonfire fell, everyone was) walking around in a state of confusion. We were all searching for something, whether it was a friend or someone to lean on. The mist this morning was sort of like us looking for our friends.”
Grantham, drove from Tyler to meet up with old friends, attended the Bonfire remembrance ceremony and the memorial dedication. Grantham and her friends visited her sister in Lechner Hall to share their Bonfire experiences and answer questions the students had about the tradition.
“I think it’s important that we pass on our spirit in … stories and coming together and uniting and remembering the reason that those students (were there that night),” Grantham said.
Grantham said “Aggie love” is what drew so many people to the Bonfire Memorial so late at night.
Jason Hernandez, a junior meteorology major, said he came out of respect.
“That was the first time I went out there,” he said. “All the other times, I (walked by on my way to) class in the morning.”
Hernandez said he was impressed with how the ceremony transformed from 2,000 Aggies silently staring into the center of the memorial to an impromptu Muster-style roll call.
“I was under the impression that it was improvised,” Hernandez said. “I think that’s what made it special. People showed up on their own accord.”
One student walked into the center of the Spirit Ring section of the memorial and placed his pot – a hard hat that people wear when they work on Bonfire – over the black granite marker that symbolized centerpole, and a group of the victims’ families gathered in the center shortly afterward. Eventually, everyone in attendance was invited to walk through the portals.
Grantham said the manner in which the singing of “The Spirit of Aggieland,” started in the small inner circle of families and spread to the entire group of people in attendance was symbolic of the passing along of traditions from one generation to the next.
Ben Wilkerson, a senior mechanical engineering major and commander of Squadron 17, attended the remembrance ceremony with several members of his outfit said they hoped to show freshmen what A&M tradition was all about. Several members of Squadron 17 were carrying the flag that flew on centerpole for the 1999 Bonfire.
“That flag is the only thing that’s not locked away with the rest of the stuff from Bonfire,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said the remembrance helps him appreciate his time at A&M and the way tradition continues.
“As time goes on, the University is going to change, and the people in it are going to change, but don’t let the changes affect you,” Wilkerson said. “Know that what you’re a part of and everything that you do is something that people have done before you. The people that are going to be coming after you are going to be going through everything after you.”

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