Is Bonfire returning to A&M?

September 9, 2009 9:05:20 PM PDT
One of the most well-known former students at Texas A&M says the Bonfire will return to campus, possibly as early as next year. The governor didn't say it will return, only that he expects it to. He made the statement in an interview with Texas Monthly Magazine. The publication was doing a 10-year-retrospective on the Bonfire collapse.

"It's really going to be interesting when Bonfire is re-introduced on the campus again and it will be," said Gov. Perry. "I will not be surprised if it happens by 2011, maybe even 2010. I think Bonfire will be back on campus."

It was ten years ago in November 1999 when the stack of logs collapsed killing a dozen people and injuring 27 others. Bonfire has been absent from Aggieland ever since.

Many in the Texas A&M community are talking about the governor's statement about Bonfire coming back. However, it's something which is far from a done deal. Many of the students to whom we spoke today said the same thing - safety first.

Even ten years after the accident, Bonfire stirs a lot of emotion. It is still near and dear to people's hearts. Jeremy Stark and Kevin Davenport are officers in the student organization that now holds the event off campus in Robertson County.

"It's still near and dear to a lot of people's hearts. I feel like the university lost something since it's been moved off campus," said Stark.

Many students have heard the governor's comments about returning the tradition to the Aggie campus.

"I was surprised at first, but he's made a similar comment in the past and there's been a big hub-bub on campus. Then it kind of died down after awhile," said Davenport.

They are mindful it could never return without change.

"I haven't really thought about it, but it would have to change due to liability," said A&M sophomore Zach Farrow.

Another student said, "I think it would be great to bring back but must be safer for a lot of people."

The scene of the November 1999 collapse where 12 people were killed and 27 more injured is now home to a memorial.

"I think we must never forget what happened in 1999 and we must make sure that we never have a repeat occurrence of what happened," said Kathryn Greenwade, VP of the Association of Former Students.

Greenwade says they trust the university with the decision whether to move it back.

"We at the Association of Former Students certainly support the tradition of Bonfire and all that it's meant to the university, but we understand the complexity of this decision," said Greenwade.

The university says it would take extraordinary interest from students. A spokesperson for the university issued a statement saying, "I don't hear the students rising up and demanding it. To have it happen to you one time is something that you can get past. If you did it again and it happened again, you have no way to excuse yourself."

The Association of Former Students says there were some discussions a couple years ago at the top level about bringing Bonfire back to campus, but it was determined it could happen only after a very comprehensive study and after any litigation regarding the 1999 incident was over.

We spoke with the president of the Reveille Club of Houston about the governor's comments.

"We support the governor and we support Texas A&M University and ultimately, it's the board of regents that would make the decisions and the school administration," said Timothy Tate, who graduated from Texas A&M in 1988. "Whether they make that decision for or leave it as is, we support the university."

We also spoke with a woman whose son was injured in the Bonfire collapse. She didn't want to be identified, but she did tell us, "If it's brought back the way it was run before, absolutely not. I do think it has some positive virtues. It just got out of hand and was clear negligence on everyone's part."

Several so-called renegade Aggie bonfires have been held in the years after the collapse. Those bonfires were held at sites off campus and generally the logs are placed sideways, or all touching the ground. Texas A&M discourages students from showing up.

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