Bonfire Memorial

A few visitors brave the cold to honor the 12 Aggies who died when the bonfire stack collapsed during construction 15 years ago by visiting the Bonfire Memorial on Sunday afternoon.

The three came on a Sunday afternoon, hands buried in pockets and noses turning red in the cold winds and light rain. They stood in the center of the Bonfire Memorial, looking out at the 12 arches in the circle.

Bryan Gomez, a senior, began to explain the 12 archways faced toward the hometowns of each of the deceased. The circle they stood in, the size of the bonfire before the 2 million pounds of logs collapsed, was divided into 27 sections, one for each injured student.

As Gomez spoke, Colton Cooper, a sophomore who recently transferred to Texas A&M, gazed around the memorial. He'd heard about it from Gomez before at a camp held for transfer students. But this was his first time seeing it.

"It's humbling to see how much we all come together, even though I was four years old when it happened. I didn't know about it really," he said. "It's definitely humbling to see how, even though I don't know, I still feel like I'm part of the family at A&M."

Gomez, who attended his first memorial service last year, knows the feeling well.

"It was what I expected and it wasn't," he said. "It's emotional for a lot of people. It was for me."

Gomez, Cooper and Lucas Hunt will be back at the memorial at 2:42 a.m. Tuesday to mark the 15th anniversary of the bonfire collapse.

Delaney Halvey, a freshman, will also be attending Tuesday's memorial. On Sunday, she took her parents, John and Jenifer Halvey, to the memorial.

Jenifer Halvey, who graduated from A&M in 1984, was living in Arizona 15 years ago and remembers explaining to neighbors and friends that the accident was much more than "crazy college kids out of control."

"You know what a community Texas A&M is," she said. "It's just something we take a lot of pride in. When something tragic like this happens, it's personal, it's close, even if you're far away."

Megan English wasn't at the memorial on Sunday, but she visits often to think. Like other Aggies, the area evokes a sense of Aggie family within English. Her cousin, Lucas John Kimmel, is honored by the memorial.

English was too young to remember much about Kimmel, but she does remember the unveiling of the memorial in 2004 and realizing the hundreds of students gathered couldn't all have personally known the 12 who died.

"After that, I became so involved with A&M," she said. She'll be at the memorial with her aunt and uncle on Tuesday morning.

"Every Aggie should go see the memorial at some point in their college career," she said. "It really represents A&M, in my eyes."

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