Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remembering Bonfire

It was the most exciting time of year on Texas A&M's campus. It was getting cold and Thanksgiving was approaching, which meant two things: Bonfire and the football game against Texas, our biggest rival. I was a sophomore that year. It would be my first time as a student to attend the all-important important game, as it had been in Austin the previous year. I'd attended Bonfire twice before. It may have been more, but I can't remember now. My best friend and I went our senior year in high school and of course I went my freshman year.

Students had been working on stack for weeks and it was almost finished. It was always neat to drive by on Texas Avenue or University Drive and see the progress. Bonfire looked like a huge wedding cake made out of logs rising out of a big, green field. On the night it would burn, thousands of students and Aggie fans would gather around it and sing our songs, do our yells, and tell our "good bull." The feeling of being a part of a huge family, the feeling of pride in this very unique and wonderful school - simply put, it was fun. For Aggies, this was the highlight of the year.

At 5:00 in the morning on November 18, 1999, my phone rang. It was my friend and accountability partner, Becky, calling to ask if I was going out to pray on the steps of the Administration Building. Say what? I had no clue what she was talking about. There were a lot of strong believers on our campus and it wasn't that unusual to think of people gathering to pray, but I was not so spiritual that I would involve myself in such an early gathering. Finally she realized I was clueless and she explained that Bonfire had collapsed on top of our classmates and there were many dead or injured. People were meeting to pray.

When you're growing up, those moments that involve death change you. And I was changed in that moment, along with my forty-something thousand classmates. We were thrust forward in the necessary process of becoming adults. This process, I have come to realize, often involves pain.

Becky arrived at our townhouse a few minutes later in her Ford Explorer, if I'm remembering right. She caught me up on what she knew and we headed to campus. It was pitch black outside. We parked by the Commons and walked over to the beautiful, white Administration Building that looks out on the Polo Field where Bonfire had been built.

I may never forget the chills that ran over my body when I saw the flashing red lights of all the emergency vehicles lighting up the night. The lights symbolized help, but the scene looked evil. Deadly. Horrifying.

We prayed with the other students gathered. We asked God to save our classmates who were trapped in the twisted mass of logs. We asked Him to comfort us. We asked Him to show Himself on our campus.

Then we moved down closer to the fallen stack. The day was breaking and we could see white blankets covering certain parts of the stack. It was sickening. It was quiet. There were big, burly guys trying to help. Others were kneeling and hugging each other. There were a lot of tears. There were mouths opened, covered by hands. There was shock and brokenness.

By the time every last log had been unraveled, twelve students (including one former student) were dead. The irony was not lost on a school that prides itself in the tradition of The Twelfth Man.

We knew our school would never be the same. It wasn't and still isn't. There was talk that Bonfire would never be built or burn again. It was hard to imagine A&M without its most prized tradition. But I think everyone knew deep down that even if students built it again and were very careful, eventually a new generation of Ags who weren't there to see the horror that we had seen would lose sight of why more care needed to be taken. And then the old ways would return and it could happen again. That would be inexcusable.

There's an off-campus, unsponsored Bonfire now. I've never been to it. So far, it's not the attraction that the original Bonfire once was. I don't really know what I think about it, but I hope they're taking care. I suppose there are many good causes worth giving one's life for, but Bonfire - as fun as it was - is not one of them.

My class, the Class of 2002, was the last freshman class to see a Bonfire burn. We saw some turbulent times on that campus, beginning with the Bonfire Tragedy and ending with 9/11 in the fall of our senior year. If those won't grow you up quick, I don't know what will.

On this tenth anniversary of Bonfire's collapse, my prayer is that current Texas A&M students will stop and consider how fleeting this life is. I pray they will look up from the near-sighted, self-involved season that can characterize the college years and consider that no person, no institution is invincible or self-sufficient. We are weak and humble despite our pride and boasting. The troubles of this life will bring us to our knees, but God will meet us there if we let Him. He is definitely worthy of the laying down of our lives.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:1-3)

*What about you? Was there a major event that marked your college years?

**Donna at Way More Homemade wrote a great post describing what Bonfire used to be like.


tiggerdaisy said...

During my senior year of college, 1995-96, my stepdad and grandpa both died. It was a sobering time indeed.

You have really tackled a hard subject in this post. I love your closing paragraph.

Prayers and blessings,

HappyascanB said...

Wow. I remember that bonfire incident. I was at UGA. . . . definitely 9/11 rocked my world. . . Thank you for reliving such a difficult time for all of us.

Jennifer said...

I was a freshman (at a different college) that year, but had many friends that were there. I just remember praying that it was not one of them. That was in the day before Facebook and texting, so I could do nothing but sit and pray.

Deidre said...

I love this post, Amanda.
Beautiful tribute.

Lauren Kelly said...

WOW, Amanda.... this literally gave me chills when reading!!!!

Alana said...

I had the exact same experience. Bonfire fell my freshman year. I lived in the dorm right across from the fields and got out there right around the time the first ambulances started to arrive. The dorm connected to ours was out there that night so we heard about it almost immediately. Such a sad time. And of course 9-11 also happened while I was day. Both very somber times...

Christine said...

The bonfire was 2 days before my wedding and I remember being so happy and thrilled about that but also knew that there were people in Texas who were at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. I remember watching the football game the following week, on Thanksgiving, and how the opposing team (Texas?)was so gracious to the A&M team and fans as a result.

My senior year of college a friend who'd been in Sunday school and youth group with me for years was killed in a freak accident in his apartment when he got back to school after Christmas break. It was so surreal to know that someone I'd seen just a few days earlier in church before we all went back to our various schools was gone. You're right, it grows you up fast when something like that happens.

Big Mama said...

I can't imagine what campus must have been like that day, but I remember crying on the phone with Gulley as our hearts broke for those students, their families and our school.

Bobbie said...

Amanda, What a beautiful tribute to our Aggie Bonfire! I don't think I've ever read such a moving tribute. We were living in Seattle at the time and I received a phone call at 6 AM from one of my SILs that's class of '84. What a heartbreaking time. One of our songs, 'We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we, true to each other as Aggies can be.." says it all. We are a family and when one is hurt, we all hurt so just multiply that hurt by 12 and the many that were injured AND their families!
We all stand together for a reason.

My husband worked on four bonfires and our son worked on five. We had attended many and I miss seeing all the 'comradary' together that goes on during the building and burning of this tradition. Today is a pretty solemn day here in Aggieland. We have plans to go over to the new Memorial this afternoon. We wanted to let the current students have their time and hopefully some of them will be able to feel the love of the Aggie family!

I do remember that the Longhorns did step up and mourn with all of Aggieland. That was heartwarming for a lot of Former Students!

Again, thank you for sharing this day with us. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family! What Hearts you have, so big and full of love for others.

Gig'em, Bobbie

Longmeadow Mama said...

I had waited forever and a day for my freshmen year away at Mt Vernon Nazarene College. I had been there so many times in youth group days for various activities and couldn't wait to actually live my college days out in the SMALL town & college community. Anyway, over Christmas break my freshmen year my younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia. And just like that my world was rocked and my college years were marked! Not exactly the freshmen year I was hoping for. My brother went to be with Jesus right before the start of my soph. year so I transferred to a local college to be at home. God's thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are higher than mine. I ended up at 3 colleges in 4 years...not what I had in mind but what God knew to be best.
(sorry for the long comment!)

Martha said...

I was also a freshman at a different college the year of the bonfire tragedy and remember mourning for my peers. Another life changing event that year was the Columbine shootings. I didn't have a TV in my classroom, but I saw some footage in the student union and then asked my RA to turn on her TV and watched with her. I graduated a year early and was teaching 4th grade on 9/11. I'll never forget walking through that day with those 4th graders. So sad and scary!

The Niemeyer Nest said...

We must have been in college at the same time. I remember Columbine too as being a defining moment in my college career. My major was education and it was scary to think that such a tragedy could happen in a school. Sadly, we have many more tragedies in the schools since 1999. Great post! You gave me chills as I remembered Bonfire and 9/11 through your post.

Jenn said...

Thank you for sharing those memories, Amanda, and in such lovely prose. I grew up in Houston and have fond affection for the A&M traditions. One of my neighbors was supposed to be working that bonfire shift and switched with someone at the last minute. I of course will never understand why he was so lucky when others weren't. I wasn't in Texas at the time, but it still was very sobering to see such a joyful tradition turn to tragedy.

I was a student at CU in Boulder when the Columbine shootings occurred. Many of my friends had siblings at the high school and one friend was student teaching at the elementary school across the street. Those feelings of chaos, confusion, uncertainty, worry, shock and helplessness are burned in my memory. And very similar to the feelings experienced a couple years later on 9/11 but on a larger scale.

Kristie said...

I was a junior in high school when Bonfire collapsed, but it was that day that I realized I was already an Aggie.

I was a freshman at A&M when 9/11 happened. To experience that as a freshman, far from home and everything familiar, totally rocked my world.

Jenna said...

What an amazing post.

It is amazing how certain things in our past completely change and shape us. There are so many things like that, but tragedies like this definitely seem to do it at an accelerated rate.

I went to college the Fall following 9/11, so that stage of life started out in a completely different world than I had always known.

Another key event involved 2 of our college ministry leaders being killed in a tragic car accident my sophomore year. Godly, beautiful, talented women who were living their lives completely for Christ.

I looked up and aspired to be like these 2 girls in particular so much for so many different reasons...and then just like that, they were gone. It definitely changed us all. And as I am sure as it is with the Bonfire - sometimes I still can't believe it happened. These things just don't make sense this side of Heaven, that is for sure.

Thanks for sharing this beautifully written story, Amanda. Will definitely be praying for all those affected on this 10th anniversary.

Anonymous said...

(Trying not to sound too dramatic here).
I don't know if I've ever commented on your blog before - I have read for a little while now and got here either through the LPM blog or Big Mama linking to you one day. It's funny, because I feel like we have so many points of intersection in our lives - I went to Klein Forest and graduated in '99 and played volleyball, so our teams must have played one another - yet we're complete strangers.
I was at the last bonfire (my senior year of high school), because I was pretty sure I wanted to go to A&M for college. As it turns out, I opted for the Naval Academy instead. I remember when we got wind of the bonfire collapse a classmate at the Academy from Texas came to my room in tears because he knew people who had been injured.
But, the most formative thing for us was obviously 9/11. I can remember the details of that day like it was yesterday. Here we were, new juniors all about to be commissioned in the military (Navy and Marine Corps), and our whole school went to lock down - they thought they would evacuate us to the community first (so as not to be an easy target all 4,000 of us together so close to DC), but then they didn't and made us all stay in our rooms. Marines at the gate of our school manned machine guns and made make shift bunkers. It was later discovered that the 9/11 hijackers had the plans of our school in the midst of all their stuff. I also heard that the weekend prior to 9/11 (which had been parents' weekend for the seniors, which meant a little more eased security on campus) there was video taken of one of the hijackers roaming our school hallways. He'd been staking us out.
That day defined the course of my time in the Marine Corps, and ultimately I spent six months in Afghanistan, which never would have been a country I'd have paid any attention to on September 10, 2001.

Thanks for your blog, I really do enjoy it. I'll attempt to be less of a 'lurker' from now on.

Wade's World said...

Columbine happened my freshman year of college, and 9/11 happened my senior year, and only 2 1/2 months before my wedding. Both were pivotal moments in my college times. Although I went to Auburn, I was horrified at the tragedy that occured with Bonfire. I can't imagine the horror involved with it. You wrote a beautiful post today. Thank you for sharing...

bethany said...

This was a really great post Amanda-very moving. Isn't wonderful that in times of fear and worry, you can turn to the Lord? What a comforting feeling.

Mommy! said...

I lost both my brother and my grandfather during my college years. Indeed, you do grow up fast when faced with death, especially unexpected, during what should be the "time of your life."

Mary said...

It was my junior year at A & M and we lived right by campus. I can remember hearing helicopters and being afraid of what that meant.

Nothing could have prepared any of us for what it did, in fact, mean.

It was like living in a cloud for a long time I remember that.

Spicy Magnolia said...

Oh how right you are in how tragedies like this change us, shaping what we think about so many things.

I was a junior at Wheaton when we received word of the Bonfire tragedy, and I immediately thought of my brother, a freshman at A&M at that time. He was actually scheduled to work on it (I can't remember if it was hours later or a day after the accident). But it was a scare for our family for awhile.

I don't remember a major event that really shaped me, but there have been a lot of things since college (i.e. 9/11, sudden death of my college roommate) that have been very significant. But just as these last few years have had a number of sorrows, God has met me in tender, precious ways like never before.

Sara said...

That night and following day will forever be crystal-clear in my memory. I was a junior that year, still living on Northside, and I still remember the frantic phone call that woke me up to inform me of what happened on the Polo Fields. My mom had just come up the evening prior to take me to dinner, and we spent a while after eating just walking around the stack site - she had never seen it. It gives me chills knowing that some of the people up on the stack while we were there were some of the same ones trapped under it mere hours later.

The Lord never wastes any moments or opportunities, though. I also vividly remember praying outside of Rudder on the evening of November 18th - one of many hundreds (if not thousands) of students, asking God to make good of this tragedy. Indeed, I personally know of at least a handful of fellow students who came to know Christ that day.

All day long I've been "forming a post" in my head to put on my blog about my experience on that day ten years ago. I'm still grappling with the idea of a decade passing...yet it still being so fresh in my mind.

We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we
True to each other, as Aggies can be

Gig 'em.

Holly said...

Our friend Alex was on the stack when it fell. I heard him tell the story of someone lifting a huge timber from his body. He said he never saw that person again. That always gives me such chills to think that God may have very well sent an angel to help our friend.

Chris and I were at A&M from 1988-1993. We enjoyed many wonderful times at bonfire. Being tee-totalers, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of it all with a coca cola or hot apple cider.

Bonfire was very tall. And people were everywhere. We always went with friends.

I think mainly our college memories are with these samefriends...we still keep in touch with them to this day. They are dear and lasting friendships to us and our kids are now friends, too!!

Blessings on you, Amanda.

Donna @ Way More Homemade said...

Amanda - Thanks for posting your story. I've been reading different people's accounts of their experiences this afternoon. There has also been a lot of sharing on Twitter about it. (Search #AggieBonfire if you want to see.) I posted last night on what Bonfire had been to me during my years (91-95). It's such a difficult thing, especially for those of us who graduated before that horrific day, to let go of such a dear tradition. But I think we pretty much realize that is the reality of the tragedy, though we may wish otherwise.



Callie said...

your story brings back all my memories of that terrible morning as well. I was a sophomore that year and will never forget it. I will pray with you for the current students!!

Marci @ All Things Wonderful said...

Beautiful Post. Thank you for sharing.

My senior year of college, a tornado destroyed much of the town and hit very near our campus. It had been a beautiful afternoon and the storm was unexpected. It was scary. Despite all the pain and loss, God is good. In response, the university created a community servive initiative and have helped many people over the years.

Denise Mattox said...

Beautiful post on Bonfire. Beautiful. I am so enjoying hearing everyone's individual experiences and how its affected them.

Lindsee Lou said...

You always know how to put things down in words so eloquently. This is a very sweet tribute! I am praying today for all of those that were affected that day. My little brother goes there now and still talks about the tradition so much. Also, I saw this video that someone posted on facebook that I thought you'd want to see. I'm sure you've seen it, but if not, here's the link. For those that weren't there this video gives you a glimpse of what it was like.

If that didn't work, the title was: We Remember 11-18-99.

A few things have shaped me, however, in college I was majorly shaped when a sorority sister of mine was killed in a car accident. It was so sad and right during finals before she was supposed to go to China on a missions trip. I'll never forget cleaning out her room (because her parents didn't want to) and thinking that we truly take nothing with us when we leave and that life is indeed fleeting.

I was also very recently shaped when a good friend of mine from college was put in jail for making a super bad decision. I've learned that without the grace of God, that could have easily been me.

Thank you for this post, Amanda. I pray peace over your mind today!


P.S. I know just recently you posted on the LPM blog about Maryam and Marzieh. I wanted to let you know that today they got out of prison! How cool is that! Afshin Z. put together a website for them to support them and today it said they were out. And free! Wasn't sure if you wanted to share with the siestas or not. Here is the link: I put a little blurb about it on my blog as well!

Okay, I'm really done. Sorry for the book comment!

Leah said...


I am a lot older than you so for me it was the explosion of the Challenger shuttle in 1986. I was in my 3rd year in pharmacy school and I had just walked into the student center to deathly quiet. That was the year the teacher, Christa McAuliffe went up in the shuttle and so it was especially emotional for the faculty of the college.

I remember the President's speech in which he said that these brave astronauts 'touched the face of God'.

It was one of those moments I will never forget.


rachelizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been reading posts all day about bonfire (and tearing up every time). Your ending to this post was so beautiful and so relevant.

I was at A&M, too, when bonfire fell. My roommate's friend was the last to be pulled out from the stack.

You can stop by my blog to read my memories of the day. (

Marla Taviano said...

Oh, Amanda, I'd never heard about Bonfire before. That's heart-breaking.

Krista said...

I vaguely remember hearing about this when I was in college. But being from the northwest we don't really have big traditions like that. :(
The biggest things for me in college were during my junior year, 9/11 of course, I just remember feeling like I was walking around in a movie all day.
And then my senior year when the shuttle Columbia blew up. I'm a science geek and also when I was 6 I had seen the Challenger blow up on live TV (we "happened" to be watching it as we were at my aunt's house while my dad had surgery - we didn't own a TV back then). My name is the same as the teacher who was on that flight and it has always kind of fascinated and scared me at the same time. I once thought that I would like to be an astronaut. Now I have a teaching degree (although I'm a mom now).
Basically just things that you can't control that happen in the world. It makes you stop and think about what's really important in life.

Sharon said...

Thank you for posting about bonfire. I am class of '01 and my husband is class of '99 and we lost a dear friend that day. What a sad day for A&M. I will never forget what a dear co-workers wife told me as she drove me to my home off campus after finding out that my friend had indeed perished in the collapse. She said, "It is times like these where I remember that this world is not our home". What comfort it is to know that our sweet friend has been with his Savior for 10 years now.

Allison Talamantez said...

bless the souls of those fallen. I think that this rocked anyone that knows of the Aggie tradition even if you are not an Aggie.

Renee said...

I actually posted my experiences from that day on my blog today as well... it was such a hard time. One that instantly brings tears to my eyes (I've cried a LOT today) going back and recalling those memories. So surreal, yet God showed himself in so many ways in the days that followed.

God Bless and Gig 'em...

(P.S. I met you a couple of weeks ago when you were working at the table for bible study - just thought I'd 'show' myself on your blog as well...)

Becky said...

Well said Amanda. I will always remember it. I was just telling my in laws today that two major events stand out in my mind from college, the fall of Bonfire and 9/11, you mentioned them both.

lizandbunyan said...

Thanks Amanda for posting this. I remember so vividly that day. My sister lived on Northside and I lived in an apartment off campus. I remember calling her and making sure she was ok.
She is Class of '03 and I am Class of '00.
This sentence you wrote speaks so much truth:
"When you're growing up, those moments that involve death change you. And I was changed in that moment, along with my forty-something thousand classmates. We were thrust forward in the necessary process of becoming adults. This process, I have come to realize, often involves pain. "

I did not realize at the time how much this would change me and my fiance' at the time who was an Aggie Class of '99. He was an ARCH major and many of his ideas after this involved memorializing the fallen. Shortly after we were married in 2001, a car accident took his life outside of Caldwell. Another day that has forever changed my life.
God is good though and restored what was lost. He has "turned my mourning into dancing and removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."

Kimberly said...

I was a freshman that year and awoke to the sound of my phone ringing too, it was my sister calling me to tell me that the bonfire had fallen. I remember seeing it only hours before as I was out with my Upstream group for a game night. I couldn't believe that the people I had seen sitting on the swings roping the logs together were more than likely dead. That was a terribly sad day in Aggieland. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about that day. A&M is indeed a very special place.

Brittney said...

I was a freshman in high school when Columbine occurred. I was sophomore in high school when the Aggie Bonfire tragedy occurred, and I still remember it. I was actually a Senior in high school when 9/11 occurred... Another tragedy that I remembered was my Senior year of college - when Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana.

The Barfuss Family said...

I remember every second of that day like it was yesterday.

Deirdre said...

the Oklahoma City Bombing. I finally got to visit the memorial just last year. Right before we found out we were going to have Ginny. It was a pivot point in my life.


Deirdre said...

on a more personal level we lost one of our class leaders just over a week after the start of my freshman year. How could we have known that Chris Best was going to be our leader? it was a small school (Toccoa Falls Bible College) and the freshman class spent a lot of time together that first week. He was driving home on the second weekend of school to see his Grandmother when a truck driver coming the opposite way crossed over the median and hit him. It took Chris more than a day to die. I remember all of us kids wandering around in the drizzle. Just wandering campus. Whenever two people would meet up, they would stop, hug and pray, but then we wandered on. Until the call came that he was gone. then the groups started gathering to mourn.

that was back in 1987. I knew him for less than 14 days and I still remember his name. And that he unashamedly served God. He loved God in a way that made him beam on his fellow man.

I'll never forget that.
thank you Amanda for giving me a chance to tell that.


Ashley said...

That was my senior year in high school and some family friends were going to take me to the Bonfire. They felt if I went it would solidify my decision to attend Texas A&M. On that morning I watched on television in horror of the collapse. I had never witnessed such a closeness of people helping in a crisis. Watching and seeing that helped me to choose to attend Texas A&M. Although I never saw Bonfire, I was there for the one year anniversary and for the ceremony of the Bonfire memorial. I am thankful the Lord led me to A&M, but today 10 years later it is great that we all reflect. Thank you for your post, well written. Blessings,

Fran said...

I was a freshman in college and was in a severe car wreck. I was thrown out of an open jeep onto another road off a cliff type thingy (mountains of NW Arkansas). The ambulance came...neighbors heard crash and called 911. I should have been dead. I looked up to see the jeep and I was down below on another road.

The EMT was stunned that I had a pulse and was breathing. I only broke my collar bone, ribs, and bruised some organs.

God saved my life that day. I'll never forget it. I was 19.

That event still stops me in my tracks to this day.

Keri said...

I am married to an Aggie and our son was about 10 months old when bonfire fell. I remember how strongly it affected him.

I was in grad school at Baylor when the Branch Davidian compound went up in flames. It was so surreal to live right there when all of that took place. I even drove out there, before it burned, with some friends to see what was going on. It was truly horrifying.

Lisa said...

the events of 9/11 really shook our college campus, a small christian college in northern california. classes were cancelled and everyone gathered in the gym for a unscheduled chapel service. there were guys on campus who literally walked out of the gym to go enlist in the military. the following summer i traveled to Hong Kong and I remember it being a really big deal to travel internationally as an american, especially to a communist-run country. those events really shaped my college experience.

Rachel said...

I was a freshman at Dallas Baptist University when the stack fell. I had graduated from high school in Nigeria at a missionary school and had a classmate that was at A&M. I couldn't get ahold of him fast enough to make sure he was okay. I do remember.

spiritmom said...

I am class of '93 so I was already married and a mother of two when Bonfire fell. I remember watching the news that morning and screaming and crying for my husband to come quickly (he's class of '92). I'll tell you Amanda, as former students we wanted nothing more than to be with you all on campus during those awful days.

Heather said...

Amanda, I googled this cause I wanted to see what it was, to get a visual, and I was amazed at how massive it was. I can't imagine the horrific scenes that you and other students witnessed that day and the emotions in the aftermath. I watched a video on YouTube and was in tears. What a horrible tragedy and I will pray for these families today and as they continue to heal. I had not even heard of this until I moved here. What a beautiful tribute Amanda. Thank you for sharing.

Rachel said...

Amanda . . . brings back a lot of memories and to recall that night and be reminded of lessons learned in college years, doesn't feel that long ago! Thanks . . . Rachel 'Schmale' Welch

Michele Helms said...

I remember my parents talking about where they were and all that happened when Presedent Kennedy was shot....interesting how we remember those big events like that. The one from my college days was when the space shuttle blew up on take off.

Anonymous said...

I definitely remember that tragedy. It was shocking . . . . .I could never go to another one, either.

During my college years Exxon Valdez happened when I was a freshman and going to school in Alaska, my grandma died and the first Gulf War started. Those things will certainly grow a person up.

Christy@pipandsqueak said...

I am A&M '95 so I attended 4 Bonfires as a student and a few more as a graduate. It was an amazing tradition but I agree with you that it is not something worth dying for.

The things that grew me up in college were the deaths of 3 of my high school classmates parents due to different circumstances. Oklahoma City bombing also happened while I was in college.

R said...

there's a great cover story about Bonfire in this month's Texas Monthly, in case you've not seen it.

my husband is an Aggie, and i'm so envious of the bond! i wish i'd gone there instead of sticking with my family's school. :0)

jennyhope said...

oh what a sobering post. I have prayed for a long time that God would teach me to number my days!

jennyhope said...

Oh girl I just was watching a video memorial. unreal. praying for those families.

Shelly said...

My stomach is in knots. I had no idea about this event. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like.

Freshmen year -- 9/11 -- for one of the most diverse student body campuses that I know of, Georgia Tech was extremely marked as a whole by it.
Sophomore year - my Dad passed away unexpectedly; 4 months later, my cousin died in a car accident
The rest of my 3.5 years in college, I faced the repercussions of those tragedies in unimaginable ways. And God became my life.

AKat said...

I'm with you on the Fighting Class of '02 starting with a tragedy and ending with! For some reason, I never thought about it that way...
On 9/11, I remember the ticket lady in Blocker parking garage spastically was saying words like "terrorists, buildings, New York City!" I thought she was crazy or it was a joke. Confused, I paid and drove home to Fox Meadows*!
On the way, I called my Granny who filled in the gaps and I can still remember the cold, numb feeling that washed over my body.
I sat with my roommates all morning, eating chocolate chip bagels from Bagel Station - our coping mechanism? - watching the whole thing unfold.
*I still think it's crazy that you were there, too. And journalism! How did I not know you again?

Sitesx6 said...

Off topic..(sorry)
But I saw today on the Joe Houston blog that they found his body.

Thank you for alerting us to his situation, I've been following his story and praying.

God is good.

Shelly said...

My brother was a junior that year and had worked on stack. Thankfully he was not there when it fell, but it definetly was hard on him. I did not go to A&M, but Justin let me be part of some of the traditions. I never went to bonfire, but I heard about it. We did go to yell practive and the t.u. game. It is such a neat school to be so huge and diverse and yet so tight.

Pennie Pastor said...

Howdy Ag! That was an awesome post, especially since I felt I could see it through your eyes. Thank you, and Gig'em!
Pennie Pastor
TAMU Class of 1990

Dionna said...

I remember hearing about this on the news, Amanda. I'm so sorry for the painful memories.

I didn't go to college. But I have two moments - one during high school and one right after I graduated.

The one during high school was when I read our Sunday morning newspaper and saw that a new friend of mine who sat behind me in a a class had been hit and killed by a car the night before. They'd hit a deer and she'd gotten out of the car to check on the deer and as she was standing on the shoulder of the road, got hit and killed by a car.

The next one was the summer after I graduated from high school and a boy that I'd gone to school from since elementary school was in a drunk driving accident and killed. Both of those deaths hit me very hard.

Jenna said...

When I was a junior in high school, a wonderful young woman from my hometown was abducted en route to meet her mother for a shopping trip. She was missing for several months before her body was finally discovered. Her younger sister and I went to school together from third grade on so this really hit home. Our whole community was rocked by this young woman's death and inspired by her family who showed such strength, dignity and even forgiveness even in the face of unspeakable tragedy. For me, the situation brought into harsh light the fact that bad things can and do happen to wonderful people - and people that I know.

Eleven years later, I was an adult woman who led small group Bible studies for high school girls. One of "my" girls was involved in the massacre at Virginia Tech - she survived and has an incredible testimony but I will always think of that day as the day I grew up. God is faithful even when life is dark and hope can rise out of ashes. I will pray peace for all involved in the Aggie tragedy.

Uncanny Colleen said...

I remember when I first heard that the stack had fallen. I was in the car on the way to a job interview. Larry and I had returned from our honeymoon the week before, and I was looking for a job in my new 'hometown'. I sat in the car so torn between the need to weep and the need to hold it together until I was through with the interview.

I nailed the interview...was offered the job on the spot. However, I got back into the car and cried all of the way home. Larry returned home as soon as he heard the sad news and consoled me as well as a non-Aggie could!

Otherwise, a defining college moment for me was standing in the TV room at Keathley hall and hearing the OJ verdict. I was at A&M a few years before you!

Geezees Geezees Custom Canvas Art said...

What an amazing post...this gave me chills!

brittanyb716 said...

I thought I'd throw out my perspective as it's quite different from the rest that have been posted.

I'm class of '08. The stack fell when I was 13 and I honestly don't remember it. I never got to be a part of seeing one burn.

The first semester of my freshman year the topic on campus was that the memorial was almost done. That November marked the 5 year anniversary and the dedication of the memorial. I remember that day fairly well. Rick Perry and former President Bush were walking around talking to students, they cancelled all afternoon classes so we could attend the ceremony, there were news crews everywhere. I walked past Rudder Fountain that morning and was handed a small maroon ribbon and's still on the strap of my backpack.
I know they had a big candle light vigil at the memorial a few nights ago but I wonder if you know they do that every year (minus the candles). Every early November 18th morning students (and many of the families of the 12) gather at the memorial in silence. I went once. It feels a lot like going to Taps. At exactly 2:42 someone starts singing the Spirit of Aggieland and the rest join in. To stand there in the cold dampness that is the middle of a November night in a field full of people we'd didn't know, to honor 12 others we'd never met and sing a song about how we will stand together...that was move moving than any Aggie-anything I've ever been to. That night was an event that shook the lives of thousands and I just wanted to share with those of you who fully experienced that tragedy that it has not been forgotten and that Bonfire remains a very honored, though un-practiced tradition. And Amanda, don't worry, most of the student body joins you in not really knowing what to think about the off-campus bonfire...

Thank you so much for sharing this and giving us not-so-former students some insight into that time. I can't imagine what it was like to be in that town/on campus the days and weeks following that night.

On a slightly more comical note, George W. Bush was elected that same November my freshman year. With A&M being the most politically conservative public school at the time, it was all-out Bush country. I still have a tshirt...the front says "Ags for Bush" and the back has a picture of him getting off a plane with his thumb up and says "Gig Em George!" It's hilarious.

WendyB said...

When I was a junior in college in central Pennsylvania, we had to prepare for nuclear disaster as our dorms were opened for fallout shelters due to Three Mile Island's meltdown 45 miles away. I may or may not glow in the dark nearly 30 years later!

Allyson said...

I was a junior when Bonfire fell. I was a Delta Gamma, living in the sorority house and we got a call from one of my roommates boyfriends about the collapse and that jolted us from sleep. I had 2roommates and the 3 of us sat on one bed and prayed and cried together. I remember the next day on campus was so somber. I went to my 8 am accounting class, but soon after, classes were cancelled. I remember hearing that UT cancelled their big rally in respect for the fallen Aggies. So many memories...thanks for sharing yours. What a great post.

The Williamson's said...

This Bonfire would have been my first as an Aggie student. I had seen it many times and anxiously awaited to see one as a student. This memory will forever be engraved in my mind. What a great post you wrote.

Tara G. said...

Amanda, I have been periodically checking the blog regarding your friend's fiancee whose plane went down. Please express our condolences; I'm so, so sorry. As a military pilot's wife, I have imagined and I'm thankful that's only where I've had to go. May God just overwhelm her and this family with Himself.

jen said...

I was a freshman at Tarleton that year. We'd just built ours a week before and the friedship and bonds from that were still very fresh on our hearts. I remember sitting awestruck when we heard the news about A&M. It marked how I felt about bonfire from then on. I can't imagine what everyone there went through that day. Your post brought me to tears.

katiegfromtennessee said...

Hey Amanda,

I remember hearing about the bonfire collapsing...I remember hearing that some people died and that they were not going to do the bonfire anymore. Sad, that was tragic. I remember 9/11 too, I had just gotten out of english and had finished talking to my teacher about one of my papers, and came to the campus bookstore center and saw on one of the tvs what had happened. A bunch of us college students sat in the floor and watched the tv for a good 45min. It was very surreal. When I finally got back to my dorm, didn't have a cell on me then, my mom called me on my dorm phone to see how I was doing...two of my younger sisters are in college now. Very much in the college mode. I'm praying that God would become their number one priority and their relationship with Him, making sure they know Him, know His Son...I will always pray for my sisters. Gotta go, my parents are taking my to the stores again:) Love in HIM, ((HUGS)), Blessings,


Lori at The Davidson Den said...

Wow. I remember hearing about that!! It's always so weird to find out that someone you know (not that you and I know each other...) was THERE at some significant moment in history. What a tragedy that accident was!!