Family recalls Scott West's last words before bonfire collapse

Published: Nov. 16, 2019 at 11:37 AM CST
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"He gave me a big hug and he said 'I love you' -- and that's the last thing he said to me."

It's emotional for Kristin Shipman to describe the last time she saw her older brother. Just 17-years-old and still in high school, Kristin spent the weekend with Scott at Texas A&M. A week later, he was gone.

"I got a chance to kind of say good-bye, not knowing it," Kristin said from her home in Richardson, Texas.

The 19-year-old sophomore was one of 12 Aggies killed when a 59-foot stack of logs came crashing to the ground.

"Then all of the sudden, he's gone" his father Richard said.

It's been 20 years since the Bonfire tragedy of 1999. Yet in some ways, it feels like yesterday to Richard West.

"You feel that hole in your life and know there's something missing," Richard explained. "The feelings are not as sharp, but the dull aches are still there."

The aches and the what-ifs.

"I can't help but wonder what our family would look like," Kristin said. "I think he would have been a good dad because he was sensitive and funny."

Kristin later graduated from Texas A&M and now she and her husband have three children. Richard and his wife, Janiece, relocated from Houston to the Dallas area to be closer to their three grandchildren.

While not an Aggie himself, Richard loved the tradition of Bonfire and what it meant to his son.

"They got a lot of satisfaction and teamwork and maturity about building something and completing a project," Richard said.

He added, "You realize he's been gone longer than he was around and the kids that show up at the memorial, none of them were even born. So this is ancient history to people, but for us, it's still semi-fresh. It's always there."

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