The Bonfire tragedy: Crowd mourns freshman Kimmel

by John Tedesco
A Section

All content (c) San Antonio Express-News

CORPUS CHRISTI — For a few minutes as dusk fell Monday, Lucas Kimmel was alone in the silence of Corpus Christi Cathedral.

The pews were empty. Stained-glass windows dimmed as the sun set. A lone candle flickered by the casket.

The young cadet wore an olive-green uniform, and his hands were gloved in white. Black rosary beads were wrapped around his left palm.

No one was there to hear the church bells, sounding mournful as they tolled.

But Kimmel, a 19-year-old freshman at Texas A&M University, had made a difference in too many lives to remain alone for long.

What began as a trickle grew to a torrent of mourners packing the cathedral. The line to view Kimmel’s body ran from the casket to the back of the church.

In death, as in life, Kimmel was surrounded by friends and family members, saddened with the burden of having to say goodbye.

“They say it doesn’t matter how long you’re here,” said Sgt. Lamar Turner, who was in Kimmel’s Army company. “What matters is the lives you touch while you’re here. As you can see, he was very impressive.”

Kimmel was among the students killed last week in the Aggie Bonfire collapse. The rosary Monday evening was moved from Kimmel’s small parish to the downtown cathedral to make room for the hundreds of mourners expected to pay their respects. Many came from Violet, a farming community on the outskirts of Corpus Christi, where Kimmel’s family has lived for five generations.

Father John Ouellette said Kimmel’s body traditionally would have been taken from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Violet to the nearby cemetery. But the priest said the tradition was worth breaking for all those who loved Kimmel.

The rosary ended with Ouellette hugging Kimmel’s parents, Jamie and Walieta. Slowly, people began leaving the church, disbelief still dwelling in some of their hearts. “He had a lot of potential,” said George Martin, scoutmaster of Kimmel’s Boy Scout troop. “It’s really sad that he can’t live up to all his promise.”