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The bonfire collapse ignited the Aggie Spirit in ways that will never be forgotten. From the time stack fell, and many days after, Aggies began to leave tokens of their Aggie experience behind in honor of those who died and were injured.
Some left poems, while others left their Aggie Rings.
At a time when circumstances made no sense, what was tangible was comforting.
And soon Aggies began to leave meaningful memories at the foot of tragedy.
"It's hard to be totally objective about this collection because it represents so much emotion, grief and it bears witness to what happened that fateful day," says Anthropologist Dr. Sylvia Grider.
About 4,000 artifacts were collected from the spontaneous shrine that formed at the site of the collapse. Messages of hope, love, and loss were picked up one by one and included in a collection that historians believe is one of a kind.
"It's been catalogued since the first year; we've been able to go beyond the catalogue and make it easier to inventory items," says Curator Patricia Clabaugh.
Perhaps one of the most sacred symbols for Aggies is the Aggie Ring. At one point, over 50 were left at this flag pole, all in remembrance of the Aggies who died. All were returned except for one.
"What's fascinating is the name has been filed out and so we can't tell who it belonged to. It stands for all of them," says Grider.
For the Aggie Community, sacrificing personal possessions seemed the least they could do for the twelve who sacrificed it all for the bonfire they loved.
"For people to take those rings off and leave them, it showed they cared about the people who died, they cared about bonfire. That is the greatest gesture that anybody could make," says Grider.
The university must now decide where to put the bonfire memorabilia.
A committee is discussing the possibility of a visitor's center at the memorial to house the artifacts.
A decision is expected in December.
But until then, caring hands are documenting as much information about what was left at the site, so Aggies 50 years from now will also feel the magnitude of what happened five years ago.
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