Friday, December 22, 2006

We Are Marshall

November 14, 1970...seems like a normal date. But is was a date to change the city of Huntington, the state of West Virginia, and a lot of sports fans everywhere. That was the day 75 people including most of the Marshall Thundering Herd football team died in a plane crash near Huntington. From the official report...

Southern Airlines Flight 932 left Kinston, North Carolina, at 6:38 p.m., carrying the Marshall University football team, coaching staff and fans to Huntington, West Virginia. After an uneventful flight, the crew contacted Huntington Airport tower at 7:23 p.m. and were cleared for a localizer approach on runway 11. The weather conditions were poor, mist and light rain with broken clouds at 500 feet. The plane descended below the Minimum Descent Altitude, striking trees on a hillside about one mile from the runway. The plane then crashed and burned.
I was 12 at the time. In the sixth grade. And growing up in Oceana, Wyoming county, West Virginia. I don't remember hearing about the crash. I don't recall even knowing about Marshall University. Sadly, for me there are no memories.

Ironically, in the fall of 1976, I would be a freshman at Marshall. I would pass by the Memorial Fountain outside the student center, and it would be just a fountain. I had no idea of the meaning. Even after 4 semester at Marshall, staying in 606 Twin Towers East, the full magnitude of the accident, just a few years earlier, never registered. It was never talked about.

But looking at the info on those who died causes me to think about how bad that day must have been. The people who came together in 1971 to rebuild the football program, were gone by the time I arrived in 1976.

The pilot, was a veteran of World War II and Korea. He had 18,500 hours logged as a pilot. Considering that I work a 40 hour week, this pilot had the equivalent of 9 years of flying 40 hour per week. He was experienced. From the report, the most likely causes were...

he Board has been unable to determine the reason for this descent, although the two most likely explanations are: a) improper use of cockpit instrument data; or b) an altimetry system error”

Even if I don't remember the actual event, I can understand the sorrow cause by of this crash.

I transferred from Marshall after 2 years and finished up at another school. But now, through this movie, I have grown closer to one of my old schools. In all this time, I never understood the magnitude of the crash, now I understand it better.

If possible, I will see "We Are Marshall" on the big screen.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who was a teenager, growing up in Huntington, when the crash took place. He tells me that he remembers hearing the "boom" and seeing a glow in the sky from the fire. Most of the adults in his neighborhood didn't think much of the explosion that night because local steel and chemical plants were always catching on fire. It was a different scene the next day.

There has been a lot of talk lately about local connections to the team that perished here in the NRV. Just down the road at Ferrum College, a former junior college, there is a memorial to 7 of their alumni that lost their lives. Two members of the Marshall coaching staff were Virginia Tech alumni. I came across this article from the son of Frank Loria. Loria was an All-American football player at VT in the 60's and roommate of current VT head coach, Frank Beamer. Loria's son was unborn at the time of the crash so he only has the stories of others to know his father.

Trace said...

I recently viewed the movie on the big screen. It is now my #1 favorite movie of the year. I was also young (around 10) when this happened. The movie has given me a new perspective. I attended Marshall University from 1981-1984, receiving a BA. from the College of Education, in Speech and Language Pathology. What a movie! What history!