The sky was November blue, endless and impossibly clear, full of bright sunlight. People were dressed in winter attire, bundled against the crisp air in coats, scarves, and gloves in every shade. Still, the predominant color was green. Marshall University green. Thundering Herd green. We Are Marshall green.
I was watching a live stream of the ceremony in front of the Marshall University Memorial Fountain, held annually to honor everyone who died in the plane crash outside of Huntington, WV, on November 14, 1970. Seventy-five people, including members of the Marshall football team, coaching staff, University personnel, and fans perished in the crash. I was ten years old and unsure how to react to a tragedy of such immense proportions. Schoolmates lost parents and grandparents, brothers, and aunts and uncles; it was difficult to grasp the enormous loss and pain shrouding an entire community.
Although it has been nearly thirty years since I have called Huntington home, I was drawn to today’s event as a daughter of the town and one who experienced the tragedy up close. The water in the fountain gurgled gently throughout the ceremony, soothing music that helped ease the sadness of the occasion. When all the remarks, prayers, and songs were concluded, a memorial wreath was placed in front of the fountain. Fittingly, one of this year’s wreath-bearers was a first responder to the crash site that November long ago. After the name of each person killed was read aloud, the fountain was turned off, as is customary, and will remain silent until next spring.
The water was stilled temporarily. The memories of 75 special people remain forever. They were, and are, Marshall.