Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Solemn Anniversary

It's hard to believe that it has been 39 years since most of the young men pictured here perished in a fiery crash near Tri State Airport. Dying with them on that rainy night were a number of fans, community leaders, university officials, and the flight crew. It was a tragedy that forever changed Marshall University, and our community. To those of us in the Huntington area, November 14, 1970 (much like December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; or September 11, 2001) is a date that is forever etched in our memories. The motion picture, "We Are ... Marshall" has helped an entirely new generation understand the magnitude of the loss to the school and the community.
I lost classmates, neighbors, friend's parents, and my own medical doctor. The University lost student athletes, administrators, and key supporters. The community lost civic leaders, media figures, and valued professional members. More than 70 families lost their nearest and dearest loved ones. It all happened so quickly, so unexpectedly, and the shock was felt throughout the nation. Now, after nearly four decades, the images of that night are still vivid in our memories.
It's been a long time since the crash. How long? The Viet Nam War was still going full blast. Eight different Presidents have sat in the Oval office. It was 19 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cell phones were unheard of, MTV and personal computers were non existent, and the USSR was our greatest threat. Most of us who were college students then, are grandparents now! Yet, as long as it's been since the news broke it still seems like only yesterday.
Today at noon, a crowd will gather behind the Memorial Student Center. Speeches will be made, tears will be shed, and the Memorial Fountain will be turned off until the beginning of spring football practice next year. The crowd will disperse from campus, and gather in at the stadium at 4:30 for today's game with Southern Mississippi. Life goes on.
Today's ritual is one we've repeated for 39 years. It is an appropriate memorial to our friends who left us way too soon.

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