This November marks ten years since the stack collapsed on the polo fields, and also would’ve marked the 100th year of the on campus bonfire tradition. Texas Monthly has put together a helluva oral history from former Ags, including the previously mentioned remarks by our governor, which given the full article, seem incredibly out-of-touch and insenstive.
I will never forget Tim Kerlee. He was up on stack, trapped under a pile of logs, but every time one of us approached him to help, he would turn us away. He would say, “I can see so-and-so over there. Go help him. He needs the help. Don’t worry about me.”
From a seventeen-year-old, no less. Given the time frame, and the number of students who’ve passed through the school since that day it’s pretty easy to minimize the loss that day. Some of my cousins and friends, who graduated four or five years after me have talked about the off-campus student bonfire as something awesome that should return to the school in an official capacity. To me it’s insulting. No I didn’t go to cut, no I didn’t know any of these kids, but I do know that none of them got to graduate, get married or celebrate the birth of a child. Those of us who were there, and remember seeing fellow students place their senior boots and Aggie rings at the impromptu memorial in front of the academic building, remember the wreaths and crosses pined to chairs in classrooms where the twelve students had sat, most of them would tell you that sometimes it’s best to let something fade away.
What’s really masterful about this piece is, through the words of the interviewees, they’ve given an outsider a bit of a glimpse into A&M’s true identity: A giant, well-intentioned contradiction.