A memorial to the 12 Aggies who were killed and the 27 who were injured in a 1999 bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M University will be dedicated this month as an homage to the individuals and to "Aggie spirit."
The $5 million granite and bronze memorial was built on the site of the bonfire collapse at the College Station campus. It will be dedicated Nov. 18, the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, which ended a 90-year tradition at the school. The bonfire traditionally was built and lighted a week before A&M played its Thanksgiving football game against arch-rival University of Texas. It symbolized the Aggies' "burning desire" to beat the Longhorns. In 1999, the 59-foot-high stack of logs collapsed on students as they worked on the construction.
"There was a lot of pain after the tragedy, and the idea behind the memorial was, in part, to help people deal with that pain and to heal," said George Rogers, an architecture professor and co-chairman of the Bonfire Memorial Dedication Committee.
The memorial contains a 16-foot-tall portal for each victim and a stone marker for each of the injured around a "Spirit Ring" that is 170 feet in diameter, the same size as the ill-fated bonfire. The entrance to the memorial is called "Tradition Plaza" and contains a quote from the school song and the words of the "Last Corps Trip," the poem read before each bonfire lighting. "History Walk," linking the plaza and the memorial, depicts each year the bonfire was lighted. The one exception was November 1963, when the bonfire was canceled because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"It's not just about 12 young people that lost their lives that awful night," Rogers said. "The memorial was proposed [also] to memorialize and express so others could understand why they were out there in the first place, what this Aggie spirit is all about."
-- Sylvia Moreno