-----Original Message-----
From: Michael C. Williams []
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2000 9:20 AM
Subject: Bonfire Solution

Dear Dr. Bowen,

My name is Michael C. Williams, class of '73. My son just graduated in May and my daughter-in-law will graduate in August. As you can see, we are an Aggie family. As such, we hold bonfire to be one of our most important traditions. We have had much discussion, and bottom line is we feel it would be a disgrace to the fallen 12 to eliminate this tradition, since they gave their lives to uphold it. Of course, like everyone (Aggies or not), we would never want to see another person hurt or lose their lives. Thus, I am proposing the following solution to allow bonfire to continue safely.

First, erect a PERMANENT center pole. I suggest stainless steel or some metal which is extremely resilient to high temperatures. Second, in a circle around this center pole, erect 12 smaller PERMANENT "structure poles" (same material as center pole). These poles would support the entire bonfire, and allow "rings" of logs to be created around each "structure pole"; which would in turn, be bound together to the center pole. If necessary, wires could be strung from the center pole to each "support pole" to provide additional support.
I would be glad to provide a drawing of this concept, if you would like. From an engineering perspective, I am sure this approach would provide adequate structural safety. I'm a NucE but I'm sure there are plenty of CE's who could finalize the design for maximum safety margin; and ME's who could suggest appropriate PERMANENT materials.

Here's the heart of my suggestion. Let's make this a PERMANENT BONFIRE MEMORIAL site. I suggest a concrete circular base (platform) for the overall bonfire area, with the PERMANENT center and 12 "support" poles embedded in the concrete in the arrangement suggested above. At each "support" pole, a bronze (or metal which can withstand high temperatures) plaque could be embedded, honoring each of the fallen 12. The concrete bonfire "platform" could also be offset in steps, to limit the maximum ring diameter as well as provide additional structural support. This approach of using 12 "support" poles, would allow dorm or corps units to establish "teams", responsible for each of the log "rings" constructed around them. This would promote Aggie spirit, pride and camaraderie. I am sure numerous traditions would grow out of this.
Let me close, by expressing my appreciation to you and the committee for your approach in investigating the bonfire tragedy; for taking a measured and well-considered approach to analyzing and investigating the events which occurred. Others may have reacted with the emotion of the moment, and made quick decisions without due consideration of the extremely negative impact on AGGIE traditions.

I hope you find this recommendation helpful. I would be glad to meet and discuss it with you personally. Though I live in St. Louis, I will be at AGGIELAND in August when my daughter-in-law graduates. If necessary, and it means continuation of the bonfire tradition, I would be willing to travel at my own expense to discuss this with you, prior to August.

One final request. Whatever the ultimate outcome of bonfire, you have received some wonderful suggestions which would allow bonfire to be continued at least THIS YEAR, providing a memorial to those who gave their lives for this tradition. I urge you to do everything possible to allow at least some form of bonfire to be held this year, and to use the logs remaining from the tragedy for that purpose. Thank you for your time and consideration of my suggestions. Please call if there is any way I can be of assistance (314) 846-7662 [work]; (314) 846-5518 [home]. Feel free to e-mail me at the address on this message or:


Michael C. Williams, PE
TAMU - Class of '73