There won't be a bonfire this year at Texas A&M, but there will be a flame. At 2:42 a.m. on Saturday, the university will hold a candlelight ceremony to remember the 11 A&M students and one alumnus who died a year ago when the 40-foot-high log structure they were building collapsed. Support for the remembrance is virtually unanimous; thousands of Aggies are expected to attend. Not all are in agreement, however, about the administration's decision to cancel the bonfire this year.
In June, A&M president Ray Bowen announced that the tradition, which dates to 1909, would be put on hold until 2002 while the school redesigns the event. A student group called Keep The Fire Burning began planning an off-campus fire. "People told us, 'This will help my life go forward and help put the [tragedy] behind me,' " says Will Clark, a founding member of the group. "The students need closure."
University administrators, predictably, weren't happy about the possibility of an unauthorized bonfire and warned of disciplinary action. That didn't dissuade the group, nor did the opposition of the student senate and friends and families of the victims. However, a delay in securing insurance left Keep The Fire Burning without adequate time to build, and on Oct. 27, the group canceled its bonfire. For now, at least, candles will have to do.