Texas A&M Marks 20 Years Since Bonfire Collapse Killed 12

Eleven students and one former student died in the collapse on Nov. 18, 1999

More than 1,000 people attended a memorial Monday to honor the 12 people who died when a tower of logs collapsed at Texas A&M University 20 years ago.

The Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony was dedicated to the 11 university students and one former student who died on Nov. 18, 1999, when a 40-foot bonfire structure holding about 5,000 logs collapsed while under construction. Another 27 students were injured.

Janice Kerlee, whose son was killed in the collapse, called the 12 who died "extraordinary young people" as she spoke during the memorial.

"They were known for their smiles and for their love for other people-- and it's good to know that people are still remembering them. It's good that they are part of the legacy of this university," Kerlee said.

Dozens of relatives of those killed attended the ceremony. Many people held battery-powered candles as some current university students presided over the ceremony, which featured renditions of "Spirit of Aggieland," "Amazing Grace" and "The Aggie War Hymn."

A current A&M student recited the names of those who died, to which the crowd responded "here" after each name, The Eagle reported.

"For our families, we know that there's no greater grief and no greater tragedy -- and we can't comprehend," said Texas A&M President Michael K. Young. "But we hope you take some solace in our joining you tonight in the memory of your loved ones, what they meant to us, and what every day they still mean to Aggies everywhere."

Bill Davis, who was injured in the collapse, attended the remembrance. He was trapped in the wreckage for four hours and suffered numerous injuries, including a broken left leg and a collapsed lung.

"For me, it's about honoring the 12," Davis said after the ceremony. "I try to live my life in a way that honors them and carries their legacy forward. I try to represent them and share their stories and my story and what Bonfire was about."

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