101 years ago a tradition began here at Texas A&M University. A bonfire was built on campus to generate enthusiasm for students. The bonfire began as basically just a giant pile of trash. Random wood found from here and there.
Over the years it grew and grew, becoming one of the most time honored traditions here at A&M. Students transformed into lumberjacks and sawed down trees to construct what was rapidly becoming a monster of a bonfire.
In 1978 the students decided to change the shape of the bonfire from a teepee to more of a wedding cake. Layer upon layer of trees. Standing in the middle was a massive center pole, made from two telephone poles spliced together by cutting matching notches. Thousands of log were stacked around and up the pole and held together by wire.
Students worked day and night to complete the stack before burn. Burn took place a couple of nights before the Texas A&M/Univeristy of Texas football game. Thousands and thousands of people came out to see the burn and take part in a yell practice and to get pumped up to Beat The Hell Outta t.u.
90 years after the first on-campus bonfire, something went wrong and the bonfire collapsed at 2:42 am on November 18, 1999.
Since the bonfire was built in a spiral pattern it was designed to collapse in on itself during burn. Many students were trapped inside the pile of about 5000 logs.
27 were injured and 12 died that night.
Every year we have bonfire remembrance at 2:42 am on November 18. Even though most of the students who attend A&M now did not know any of the students in the collapse, we remember the twelve students who gave their lives keeping the spirit alive.
Shirt: TJ Maxx, Cardigan and Pants: Old Navy, Shoes: Target
Behind me is the Bonfire Memorial. It is centered around where the bonfire stood. Each doorway represents a fallen student. The inside of each was is carved with quotes and dedications to each student. One that always sticks out to me is Timothy Duran Kerlee, Jr. '03
“Help my buddies first.” . . . uttered Tim as he lay on the fallen stack. He then directed rescue workers to five others whom he could see before allowing them to free him.
Eagle Scout Tim Kerlee was posthumously granted Boy Scout’s highest award, the MEDAL OF MERIT, for his heroic actions.
It is a very sobering place to be. May we always remember.