Texas A&M Bonfire Tragedy

The Twelfth Man

The twelve young people who died were truly remarkable kids. They were scholars, student athletes, active in Boy Scouts, 4-H, Church groups, they were leaders. If you had to chose a dozen students to represent the best of Texas A&M, you probably wouldn't do much better than these. I have just learned about Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. He was the twelfth student to die, when his life support was disconnected last Friday evening.

Let me tell you about this amazing kid. Tim graduated last year from Germantown High School in Germantown, Tennessee. He was an Eagle Scout, graduated third in his class, and was elected to his High School Hall of Fame. He was a student athlete, and a member of the National Honor Society. Hie was active in the youth group and drama club at his Methodist Church. He was actively recruited by Texas A&M, and when he enrolled he tested out of his entire freshman year. That is how this 17 year-old could be classified as a sophomore.

Tim's father said that he was thrilled to be at A&M, and especially excited about the bonfire. When the stack collapsed, his pelvis was crushed, his arm was broken, and his internal organs were scrambled like an omlette. On the front page of Thursday's Dallas Morning News is a large photo of the collapsed stack taken during the early part of the rescue effort. You can see a team working at the base of the logs to save a trapped student.

About five feet above the rescue team is Tim Kerlee, reclining on a pile of logs, propped up on one elbow. Unless you look carefully at the photo you will probably not notice that his legs are laying in an odd position. What was happening, according to the rescue teams, was that Kerlee was directing the teams to other students trapped in the stack. He kept telling them that he was O.K., and he directed rescuers to at least five other students before he allowed them to take him down from the stack.

He was taken into emergency surgery, and when they opened him up they found his organs so badly damaged that they couldn't identify much of what they saw. They closed him up, wrapped him in a sheet to hold him together, and placed on life support. He lived long enough to see and speak to his parents. He was aware that he was dying and asked to be removed from life support. When his parents asked him why he wanted to, he asked them why he should fight for a few more days of life when he could be in Heaven with Jesus right now.

Well, he got his wish. I feel sorry that I never had a chance to know Tim Kerlee, but I praise God for kids like Tim Kerlee. If you had to pick a twelfth man you couldn't do much better.

Fred, Thanks. You might send this addendum to the same list. The youth minister of A&M Methodist church who spent most of the weekend at his room told us this.

Tim Kerlee's mother said she was awakened at about 2:30am last Thurs morn. She didn't know why, the phone hadn't rung. She felt the need to pray for Tim and his safety at the bonfire and for God to watch over him. After the service she asked one of the ministers - Why did God not hear and answer my prayer. A few minutes later, one of the paramedics who tended to her son came up to her and said the most supernatural thing he'd ever seen occurred with Tim. He was very calmly watching and helping and waiting for others to be helped first. The paramedic said he wasn't complaining, in any apparent pain or agony, it was kind of like a peace about him.

His mother understood the power and effect of her prayers.

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