"13th Man" John Comstock reflects on 20th anniversary of bonfire collapse

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 9:31 AM CST
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Bonfire collapse survivor John Comstock has seen his life change in many ways in the 20 years since the tragedy.

He was trapped in the pile for hours and critically injured. As the last surviving student to be pulled out, he’s known as “The 13th Man.” November 18, 1999 is a day that John Comstock remembers in vivid detail.

"It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years but it's nice to come back to campus and see the students," said Comstock.

He was recently at Texas A&M University recounting the tragedy with several classes.

"About 2:40 my friend said, 'Hey I'm going to get off I'm going to go to the cookie shack and take a break do you want to come with me?' And I said, 'I'm going to call in another log or so and then I'm going to get down,' said Comstock. "Well within the next five minutes, the structure swayed and then immediately collapsed. The site went pitch black because the four light poles are connected to the actual structure by rope," he said.

He was trapped under the logs. His injuries would cause him to lose his left leg.

KBTX was there in 2010, when he graduated from Texas A&M with a standing ovation inside Reed Arena.

"I never thought I'd be where I am today and it was certainly I think probably the most difficult right after the collapse," said Comstock.

He's also grown in his faith after his near-death experience.

"I ended up making it and so whether you want to call that an angel or God or something like that. I mean I'm a believer but I believe that was almost a personal experience that gives me faith," Comstock said to a group of students after a lecture at A&M.

He also supports bringing bonfire back to campus.

"My main concern is I would never want to see somebody have to go through what I went through so but I am pro-bonfire and I would want to see the tradition continue as long as it can be done safely," he said.

He was also married May 4 this year with a "Star Wars" theme wedding.

"Well my fiancée at the time said, you know I’d already proposed she said yes and then we were throwing some dates around and I said, 'I will never remember those dates. I will always forget our anniversary,' and we’re both big nerds so she said, 'How about May 4?,'" he said.

Comstock also has a Texas A&M University press release written to announce his death. It keeps the "13th Man" motivated.

"But now 20 years later I can say I've exceeded everybody's expectations on where I thought I would be in life," he said.

Comstock was also at the Bonfire site on November 18 for the 20th anniversary. He now works for the Texas A&M University System.