Friday, November 18, 2011

The Day Stack Fell

I still remember when I heard the news. I wasn't an Aggie. I didn't know what one was, either.

But I remember the news coverage. I remember my mom talking to our neighbors who had a son in the corps and was supposed to be at stack that night. I didn't think about it much until I become a Fightin' Texas Aggie myself. I knew that a big bonfire had collapsed and that some people were killed, and even more injured. I didn't know the loss that rocked Aggieland or that I'd be there at the opening of the memorial on the 5 year anniversary that stack fell.

Bonfire is an Aggie tradition dating way back into Old Army to 1909 {Old Army: the time before now}. It burned tall and bright the night before each Texas game and was the culmination of months of preparation from the entire campus. Students skipped class, skipped homework, and worked all night for weeks to get bonfire built. Generations of Aggies returned to Aggieland for bonfire and midnight yell.

{Student Bonfire off-campus '09}

On November 18, 1999, at 2:42 am, days before burn, the Texas Aggie bonfire collapsed killing 12 students and injuring dozens of others. It was, and still is devastating. These were students who loved being Aggies and believed in the Spirit and Bonfire. That some died was heartwrenching.


Bonfire has not burned on campus since then {although it does burn elsewhere}, and a memorial has been built on the polo fields. And every November 18th at 2:42 am, Aggies still gather at Bonfire memorial and silently stand and remember. I was here when this picture was taken. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever taken part in.


There is a poem called the Last Corps Trip that's carved into the stone at the entrance to the memorial. This addendum was written after stack fell, and although it's not published or read anywhere {as far as I know} it was read when Bonfire memorial opened. I can remember standing at the opening ceremony and hearing a survivor tearfully read this. He loved bonfire, and he loves A&M, and is still heartbroken at the loss. And even though I don't agree with the theology, I still cry every time I read either one of these.

{Source: Texas A&M Photo Stream}

After the Last Corps Trip
by: Kathryn Holmes Smith

And the colonel of the Cadet Corps said,As he stiffly took his stand,
"It's just another Corps Trip, boys
We'll march in behind the band."

Then heaven's pearly portals opened,
Hosts of Angels showed the way,
For that Fighting Texas Aggie group
On that final Judgment Day.

When more Aggies came in view.
Twelve dressed in Bonfire gear
Walking arm and arm, and singing
Of the School they hold so dear.
Twelve Aggie voices said "Howdy"
To the keepers of the Gate.
"Working hard we just lost track of time,
We hope we're not too late."

"It's the Fighting Aggie Bonfire Crew,"
St. Peter said, Behold."
They're ready to light up Heaven,
With their courage and faith so bold".

"I would often watch them building,
That Stack so large and high,
And surely knew the time would come
They would build it in the sky."

And so the twelve came through the Gates,
St. Peter said, "Don't fear,
You are just in time for Roll Call"

One by one, they answered. . . Here.'

We will always remember '99

No comments:

Post a Comment