It was a tradition that was part of the rivalry between two great legendary college football programs for nine decades. The tradition? A bonfire. Not an ordinary bonfire, a bonfire that stood forty feet tall. A bonfire that symbolized the Aggies' burning desire to beat Texas in their annual football game. After eighty-nine previous bonfires that went on without incidence, a terrible accident happened at the bonfire of 1999. Without notice, the bonfire collapsed and in the process twelve TAMU students died and another twenty-seven were injured. The Aggie Nation was stunned, to say the least and the rest of the state of Texas looked on in disbelief as the accident made headlines all over the world.
In case you didn't know, the Aggie Family is very much like the US Marines Family. Once an Aggie, always an Aggie and if one of your Aggie brothers or sisters are in need, the Aggie Family responds to that need. It's truly an amazing thing to see. The facts that twelve Aggies died that night, is very ironic. The Aggies are also known for the very enthusiastic crowds at TAMU football games. The crowd is known as "The 12th Man", giving the Aggie football team the support to carry them to victory. Now the 12th Man tradition symbolizes so much more than loud football fans, the 12th Man has come to mean that the young people who died and were injured that night eleven years ago are with Aggies in spirit and urging them on to great heights in their athletic endeavors.
The football Aggies went on to defeat the University of Texas in their gridiron clash. I have NEVER EVER rooted against the University of Texas in any game in any sport and I didn't root against them at this game. I can say however, that I felt a certain pride for the Aggie Nation that day. What that football team accomplished was not just to win a ball game, but summon from somewhere deep inside themselves, the courage and will to defeat a mighty opponent. The Aggie football team must have felt the weight of those emotions from Aggies all over the world, yet somehow they bore that burden and displayed the character and determination to do what needed to be done.
I didn't root for the Aggies that day, but after the game was over, I remember standing up in my living room and giving them a standing ovation. The Aggies made all Texans proud that day. For a while, we were all Aggies. And damn proud to be one. Gig 'em!