I am an Aggie, class of 2001. Today, at 2:42AM marks the 13th year of the Aggie Bonfire Collapse. 1999. How time flies. Today I feel more thankful than perhaps I normally would on Thanksgiving. Perhaps it’s purely coincidence that this week we will have the great day of gratefulness.
As Mr. Ray Bowen said it, “For our Aggie Family, this is a day of unspeakable grief and sorrow…Words are just not adequate to express our deep sympathy and emotions we have on a day such as this.” I struggle to write this blog watching the video scenes I have posted below. It’s as if it happened yesterday, and tears still fall remembering when my dad called up, frantic. Asking where I was! Was I ok!? What’s going on!?. I was dead asleep after a night at stack. Gone to the world, and then I woke up, and the world I knew, was gone for me.
There are those moments in life. Those times that we are forever defined in a new way. As an adult, the Aggie Bonfire Collapse was one of those moments for me. Later to be changed by the tragic events of 9-11, the Aggie Bonfire was a moment in time that was filled with triumph and sorrow – a paradox that I believe tends to accompany life changing events. To watch an entire school voluntarily set aside differences and pulled together to remember the lives of those who were carrying out a tradition. Perhaps something like a collegiate bonfire leaves the history books a bit bare for material – it wasn’t a war, or a valiant effort to save a child in a frozen lake, it was in fact a school related tradition that was intended to be fun. I suppose that’s what anyone would say – not being an Aggie. But we knew different, I remember what I was gifted with when I participated.
I’m not sure the news will ever capture what we did out there, or be able to explain the feeling. It’s a debate that will span decades – whether what we did was worthwhile or not. It wasn’t worth people’s lives – but what in life truly is? What I do know, there is nothing that can bring back the people who perished that morning. There is nothing that we can do to solve the debates, fights, hearsay and conflict in the days, weeks and months that followed – that shook the very center of the school that I love. There is no way to take back the painful changes that blamed every he, she and it that contributed to Bonfire endured.
What we can do is remember. That, like us, the students involved were living, breathing creatures who had plans just as we did. That we were teenagers or twentyomethings that had the world at our feet – partially because of our own ambition to attend one of the best schools in the state. We were squares in the quilt that make up one of the longest standing traditions in Texas history. I will not forget.
At the Bonfire Memorial gathering that took place shortly after, the healing process started. There was a prayer given by Jeff Bailey, a Texas A&M Yell Leader, at the end. It is highlighted in the video below. I’d like to take a few lines from what I believe to be one of the most eloquent prayers I’ve ever heard.
Help us to always remember our most recently departed friends, classmates and Aggie buddies, may this remembrance last forever.
I will never forget. I will never let it go. Those events around Bonfire will forever have a spot etched out in my heart. The way the students pulled together. That pulled logs. The praying. The waiting. The news running through the grapevine. It was everywhere. It takes your soul and makes you realize that the world is a much smaller place when you realize that at the heart of it all, people are still good.
I will never forget that spirit. The kind that drives communities to move mountains when a member is in need. The kind that rises up within you and makes you remember what being human is about – that makes the things we thought were important look like grains of sand. Each day I hope to continue to become a more focused person on helping the good of the whole, rather than making improvement in only my well being. I want to live life with the want to give better of myself, and forgo the activities that are merely just "getting me by".
Lord give us the strength to live our lives with increased appreciation, for how precious life is.
Life is a precious, sometimes short-lived, place that we get gifted to spend time with amazing people and experiences. I am thankful to have the energy today to continue to live big, attempting to give back to the wonderful community of people who make my life a wonderful place to be – I am only apologetic that I cannot always appreciate it with the peace and grace that I should. I am thankful for the people around me that continue to support those things that I challenge myself with; who applaud my efforts, and pick me up when I fall.
I’m off today go and open my home to 3 dozen people to share a meal. I wish there would have been a dozen more today – but I hope they’re in heaven looking down, helping us all to be better people.
Gig Em Ags.