"In the middle of Huntington, West Virginia there's a river. Next to this river there is a steel mill. And next to the steel mill there is a school. In the middle of the school, there is a fountain. Each year on the exact same day, at the exact same hour, the water to this fountain is turned off. And in this moment once every year, through out the town, through out the school, time stands still."
At 7:35 pm on November 14, 1970, an aircraft crashed into a hill just short of the Tri-State Airport, killing all 75 people on board. The plane was carrying 37 members of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football squad, eight members of the coaching staff, 25 boosters, four flight crew members, and one employee of the charter company. The team was returning home after a 17–14 loss against the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina. At the time, Marshall's athletic teams rarely traveled by plane, with most away games within easy driving distance of the campus. The team had originally planned to cancel the flight, but changed plans and chartered the Southern Airways DC-9.
Many things touch our lives in many ways over the years. But I will never forget a dark November night 46 years ago today. We were all in the living room watching TV. They interrupted the normally scheduled programming to tell that a plane had crashed at the Tri-State Airport carrying the team, coaches and boosters of the 1970 Thundering Herd football team, killing everyone on board.
The Tri-State Airport was nestled snugly in the hills of Kenova. No one liked to fly in there because of the surrounding hills and difficult landing strip. The television showed horrific photos of fire being fought as it licked the trees and hillside surrounding the wreckage.
The area was in a state of shock. Marshall fans love their football. To lose the entire team including the coaches, was a monumental devastation. The loss of so many young lives was just to hard to understand. We lost doctors, businessmen, sportscasters and many more that were on that plane.
Some wanted to shut down the football program completely. Some wanted to continue on in support of the memory of those who died.
Over the years, the football program grew and Marshall University once again became the unstoppable Thundering Herd. Documentaries have been done. Movies have been made. Many articles and blogs have been written. But when it all is said and done, 75 people lost their lives that day and a town was changed.
I went out to the cemetery several years back on one of my trips back home. I have family buried in that same cemetery and went to visit the memorial for the graves of the ones who are buried there. There are six players buried there who died in the crash but they were never able to identify who was who so they have no names on their tombstones. As I stood there looking at their gravesites, it made me realize WE ARE MARSHALL and we always will be.
Many loved ones still remember that tragic night and many still relive it every November. The movie We ARE Marshall is not just another football movie. It is about a town and how it suffered a tremendous lost. It is about the lives that were changed forever that day. It is about a town torn apart that rebuilds to face a new era after experiencing a major devastation. It's not about football. It's about spirit and strength and community. Today, my blog pays homage to those who lost their lives 46 years ago. May you each rest in peace.