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Monday, November 22, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 65

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Aggieland forever even while at UH

By Rohith Nandagiri

Three years ago, I transferred from Texas A&M University to the University of Houston. I did so for many reasons. Not one of which was to leave behind the wealth of tradition and family spirit in Aggieland.

Mainly, it was just a personal decision about family and the proximity to many businesses. But that sense of Aggie in me has never diminished. Last week, after the intense tragedy, I was brought near tears several times.

I was a member of the Corps of Cadets and a student at Texas A&M in 1995 during the traditional Bonfire preparation. I participated in "cut" and also participated in the building of the mammoth structure. While building the bonfire, there was always a threat of it toppling over. But, just as on a roller coaster, there is always that threat.

However, it was a bonding experience with fellow Aggies and, as strange as it sounds, it was rather enjoyable seeing it burn. The tradition made sense to me along with many other faithful Aggies.

The word tragedy is often used out of context. A tragedy is not when you get a flat tire or lose an earring. This was a tragedy. Human life is precious to everyone. The 12 people who died left loved ones who will miss them. They have a university which is going to miss them and they have the entire state of Texas which is going to miss them.

As was said before, I participated in building the bonfire four years ago. It is easy to sit here and say that this was going to happen now, after the fact, but this is the truth. Mainly, it is student-run, and during the week leading up to the game, it is worked on 24 hours a day.

The cause has not yet been determined, but I am guessing that wind might have played a factor. If the balance is wrong, the whole thing can fall. At night, it is difficult to see if the center support pole is swaying. If the students could have seen the movement, maybe they could have gotten down off the top quicker. But, as it turned out, tragedy occurred.

For Aggies, it was a sad day and it is a sad period. In what is the most revered tradition at A&M, this event has made the excitement exactly the opposite.

There are no comparisons to it. You feel like you have been kicked in the stomach and then laughed at. You can't breathe and you can't smile.

But the event must continue. It must continue with more supervision, and with more vigor. The people who died would want it to be that way. They were participating in a tradition they held very dear and would not want to be the cause of the end of this tradition.

For students in Houston, it might be hard to understand how deep the feelings are. There was a saying in Aggieland which bears repeating: "From the outside, you can't understand the traditions, and from the inside you can't explain it." In a world which is becoming increasingly objective and self-centered, these traditions are meant to be preserved and treasured.

I have heard many different opinions on the subject from the media and from the general public. Some people are wondering if alcohol was involved. I will say this about alcohol: it did not cause the falling of the bonfire. Period. The bonfire is built by thousands and thousands of people over the course of two months. If people were drunk they were a select minority of idiots, but they could never make this structure weak.

The general public has no right to determine whether or not to preserve a tradition. Only the students, faculty and former students can make the judgment.

But, to anyone, this was a real tragedy.
 

Nandagiri, a senior MIS major,
can be reached at nandagiri@hotmail.com.
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