Bonfire’s Spirit Of Unity Lives On Through BUILD
At 2:42 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2019, 20 years will have passed since the Aggie Bonfire collapse that resulted in the deaths of 11 students and one former student.
As the somber milestone approaches, BUILD, a Texas A&M University student-led organization that launched in 2013 with a mission to convert 12 shipping containers into mobile medical clinics in honor of each Aggie lost in the Bonfire tragedy, known as the 12-for-12 project, has surpassed its goal and constructed 22 clinics and impacted more than 100,000 lives across 14 countries.
BUILD CEO and civil engineering graduate student George Waterous said the same spirit of community that led students to construct the Bonfire is what drives the 1,700 students involved in BUILD to construct mobile clinics today.
“Bonfire brought thousands of students together to work on a project, and that’s what we’re trying to do now: bring thousands of people together to build something,” he said. “That unity all came from Bonfire.”
Waterous said mobile clinics have gone to countries that include Jordan, Yemen, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Nigeria and Iraq. New mobile clinics will soon make their way to the Texas-Mexico border, Romania and Burundi.
Since completing the 12-for-12 project in 2016, BUILD is in the midst of a project that will construct 37 mobile clinics in honor of Aggie Veterans who have died in military service on or since 9/11. They have completed the first five this fall, with four of them dedicated to service members and the fifth in honor of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
Jerry Ebanks, whose son Michael Ebanks died in the Bonfire collapse, is heavily involved with BUILD and serves as inspiration and motivation to students involved with the organization, Waterous said.
“He’s a great reminder of the collapse and the families that it had affected,” Waterous said. “Even though 12 for 12 has passed, it’s still part of the roots of the organization every day. We’re happy we were able to honor the Aggies in the best way we knew how.”