The lives of 12 Aggies who died in the Bonfire collapse were honored by thousands who gathered at the site early Monday, the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.
The Remembrance Ceremony — which included the crowd singing the Spirit of Aggieland and a solemn version of the Aggie War Hymn — drew current and former students, as well as first-responders and staff members from Texas A&M University.
Parents and other family members of the victims were seated inside the ring of the granite memorial as hundreds stood behind them and even more filled the grassy berm surrounding the site.
As it has for the last two decades, the ceremony — sponsored by the Traditions Council — started at 2:42 a.m., which is the time the incident was reported to emergency crews on Nov. 18, 1999.
The names of the 12 were read aloud with each followed by the group’s response of “here” to show, on behalf of the person who died, that the Aggie is there in spirit: Christopher David Breen of Austin; Christopher Lee Heard of Houston; Miranda Denise Adams of Santa Fe, Texas; Jerry Don Self of Arlington; Michael Stephen Ebanks of Carrollton; Bryan Allan McClain of San Antonio; Jamie Lynn Hand of Henderson; Lucas John Kimmel of Corpus Christi; Chad Anthony Powell of Keller; Timothy Doran Kerlee Jr. of Bartlett, Tenn.; Nathan Scott West of Bellaire; and Jeremy Richard Frampton of Turlock, Calif.
Carnations and roses were left in the 12 portals, which features a likeness of the Aggie.
A&M President Michael K. Young addressed the gathering, saying that in times of “great misfortune and great tragedy we are reminded how fragile and fleeting our lives can be but, at the same time, we know that the memories are eternal.”
The wounds from that night will never fully heal, Young said, adding: “But we remember, we cherish, we honor and we hope that for at least a moment you find some solace that soothes the terrible grief.”
The legacy left by the 12 extraordinary men and women is that of service, which is shown through the thousands of acts of service performed daily by Aggies across the globe, Young said.
“Every time we build a medical clinic and place it somewhere around the world to serve those in need, we remember. Every time we plant a tree, a tree that reminds us, creates that memory, we remember,” Young said.
He was referring to BUILD, a student organization that converts shipping containers into mobile medical clinics, and was created as a unifying and collaborative project. Young also referenced the student-run Aggie Replant, which in the last two decades has planted well over 52,000 trees and pine seedlings in Texas.
“In our hearts, in our minds, we know that we serve and that service — day in and day out — is our memory, is our way of honoring and our way of cherishing the memory of those who aren’t with us,” Young said. “Aggies tonight and Aggies everywhere around the world are answering here.”