Preparations continue for this year’s Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony, to be held in-person early Wednesday at Texas A&M University’s Bonfire Memorial with numerous COVID-19 precautions in place and a livestream link available for those wanting to participate virtually.
Members of the Texas A&M and Bryan-College Station communities gather each year in the early morning hours to honor the 12 Aggies who were killed when the Bonfire collapsed Nov. 18, 1999, at 2:42 a.m. while under construction.
In social media posts, the Traditions Council at Texas A&M released a set of “do’s and don’ts” that includes wearing masks and keeping physical distance from one another.
Kate Wynn, a Texas A&M student who serves as chair of the council’s Bonfire Remembrance Committee, said Monday evening that this year, the Spirit Ring and the path around it will be reserved for the families, with all other attendees asked to observe from the hillsides surrounding the Bonfire Memorial and the History Walk.
“The 12 students we lost will live on forever in the hearts of those who knew them or were affected by the tragedy, but the Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony is our way of making sure that future generations never forget them either,” Wynn told The Eagle. “Their impact on Texas A&M was immense, and the Aggie family will always feel their absence, but we can choose to honor them and keep their legacies alive.”
The Traditions Council also asks attendees to refrain from letting out “whoops” and from partaking in the “saw 'em off” tradition during The Aggie War Hymn as a means of maintaining appropriate distance.
“There is something powerful about a physical presence, and it is important that we do everything in our power to be in-person while insisting on an environment that selflessly considers the health and safety of others in attendance,” Wynn said.
Wynn said attendance will not be capped, and the council is also offering a livestream available via bonfire.tamu.edu. Parking is available in lots 47, 50 and 51. Additionally, Wynn noted that the Reflections Display will be available to view in the Memorial Student Center Flag Room through Thursday.
In 2019, more than 1,000 people came to the Bonfire Memorial for the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. Attendees held battery-powered candles as A&M yell leaders presided over the ceremony, which included renditions of Texas A&M songs and Amazing Grace.
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to ‘remember the 12’ and we recognize that it is a privilege to be able to host Remembrance in-person,” Wynn said. “We are thankful for the university staff, students, alumni and families that are working with us to provide the safest experience possible.”
John Comstock, who was the last survivor pulled from the Bonfire wreckage 21 years ago, said Monday that he plans to attend the remembrance.
“I’m just glad we can still come together despite COVID-19 and still pay tribute to the 12,” Comstock said.
Twenty years later: Remembering Bonfire
Editor's note: This is a series remembering those who were affected by the Bonfire collapse on the Texas A&M campus on Nov. 18, 1999. Twelve Aggies were killed and 27 were injured.
This series will be updated daily.
As the early morning Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony dissipated, several members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets’ Squadron 16 waited in line for a hug from Janice Kerlee. Kerlee’s son, Timothy Doran Kerlee Jr., was one of 12 Aggies killed 20 years ago in the Bonfire collapse. Kerlee said she appreciates the opportunity to hug and briefly visit with the current members of her late son’s squadron, along with other attendees.
Thousands gather early Monday morning at Texas A&M’s Bonfire Memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bonfire collapse on Nov. 18, 2019.
Former Texas A&M University President Ray Bowen said he has thought about the victims of the Aggie Bonfire collapse every day since the tragedy on Nov. 18, 1999.
I woke up to my phone ringing early in the morning on Nov. 18, 1999. I was 22 years old and student body president of Texas A&M. It was one of my best friends on the other end of the line who told me the news. I immediately threw on a sweater and ran to the scene, where I saw firsthand the terrible aftermath of the Bonfire collapse. When I got there, I joined my fellow Aggies in trying our best to help organize rescue efforts, but the entire Aggie family lost 12 lives that day that we’ll never get back.
Dominic Braus wasn’t supposed to be working on the Aggie Bonfire when it collapsed in the chilly, early morning hours 20 years ago.
It is often described as the most important victory in Texas A&M football history, though there was no championship trophy involved or even significant bragging rights.
Miranda Denise Adams’ family always takes fresh flowers to her gravesite in Webster for her birthday, then celebrates the occasion with a cake back home in Santa Fe.
In the first chapter of the book that emerged from her enormous grief, Janice Kerlee wrote that three words — from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians — came to mind in the frantic moments and hours after learning the severity of the injuries to her son Tim Jr.’s body 20 years ago.
While back from Texas A&M on winter break during his freshman year in December 1998, Nathan Scott West wore his Corps of Cadets uniform to his home congregation, Bellaire United Methodist Church near Houston. The congregation, full of Aggies, feted one of its beloved sons.
Judi Hedstrom and Richard Frampton taught their sons the importance of service to others. The legacy of Jeremy Frampton is rooted in service as well.
Jerry Don Self never met a stranger, his best friend says.
Jerry Ebanks describes his son Michael as an original.
Friends describe Bryan McClain as kindhearted and helpful, willing to give of himself to others.
Christopher Breen lived for adventure as an Eagle Scout and wilderness guide, according to family members.
Lucas Kimmel’s love was known by his family to extend to all things, including animals, children and Aggie traditions.
Jamie Lynn Hand’s clothes, photos and artwork remain in the Henderson home of Larry and Neva Hand, each item too precious and full of memories to part with.
Holding the attention of hundreds of children and teenagers is no easy task for many adults. On a cool October weekday, John Comstock had scores of Allen Academy students and staff members captivated as he told the story of being trapped for seven hours on the morning of Nov. 18, 1999, after the Texas A&M Bonfire collapsed. Twelve Aggies were killed. Comstock was among the 27 injured and was the last survivor pulled from the wreckage.
One year after the Bonfire collapse, the city of College Station dedicated a memorial at Brison Park for the 12 Texas A&M students killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 1999.
As the 20th anniversary of the Nov. 18, 1999, Texas A&M Bonfire collapse that killed 12 people and injured 27 approaches, dozens of area residents filled two premiere showings Thursday night of a documentary that chronicles the tragedy and its aftermath.
Documentary filmmaker Charlie Minn is in the Bryan-College Station area this week filming for his upcoming documentary, The 13th Man: On November 18, 1999, a College in Texas Changed Forever.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!