Aerial view of TAMU

Remembering Bonfire

General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III
Interim President

November 17, 2023

Members of the Aggie Family,

I can still feel the weight of the phone in my hand when my oldest son — then a junior at Texas A&M University — woke us with a call to assure us he was OK and not to worry. The Aggie Bonfire had collapsed while under construction, and the situation was dire.

In the hours that followed, Betty and I were among tens of thousands of grateful Aggie parents who could say our child’s distance from the accident spared them from harm. That relief was soon drowned out by a heartbreaking revelation — 11 students and one former student had died. Twenty-seven students were injured, some critically.

It was a devastating loss that gripped the Aggie community and never really let go, never faded from our minds or hearts. Twenty-four years later, the tragedy remains a somber reminder of the fragility of life and the enduring strength of the Aggie Family, who, in times of both celebration and sorrow, come together. That’s the “Spirit of Aggieland,” the deeply ingrained sense of service, loyalty and unity that sets us apart.

It’s this spirit that called more than 60 volunteers together several weeks ago for the yearly cleaning of the Bonfire Memorial site, where the annual remembrance ceremony will take place at 2:42 a.m. on Saturday, the exact time of the disaster. And it’s this spirit that is carried on through student-led organizations like BUILD, which launched in 2013 to unify the student body around a service project — converting shipping containers into portable medical clinics in honor of those who lost their lives in the Bonfire collapse.

Tomorrow, please join me in remembering these 12 fallen Aggies who will forever be a part of the Aggie Family:

  • Miranda Denise Adams ‘02
  • Christopher D. Breen ‘96
  • Michael Stephen Ebanks ‘03
  • Jeremy Richard Frampton ‘99
  • Jamie Lynn Hand ‘03
  • Christopher Lee Heard ‘03
  • Timothy Doran Kerlee Jr. ‘03
  • Lucas John Kimmel ‘03
  • Bryan A. McClain ‘02
  • Chad A. Powell ‘03
  • Jerry Don Self ‘01
  • Nathan Scott West ‘02

General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, Interim President