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Tuesday marks the 53rd Anniversary of the Marshall University Plane Crash. Seventy-five people, football team players, coaches, staff, supporters and the flight crew perished while returning from an away game at East Carolina. Every year, on this day, Marshall remembers the 75.
Thousands once again gathered around the splashing Marshall Memorial Fountain, unified in the theme of “We Will Never Forget.” Like all his predecessors, Marshall Football Head Coach Charles Huff tells his players – when you come here, you choose this story and this history.
“It’s important that you understand what you chose,” Huff said. “Then you understand why it’s so important to this community. And then, you can have your own personal feelings and a personal lane towards the event.”
Keynote speaker Craig Greenlee said he would have been on that plane, had he not resigned as a player the previous year. Greenlee said he believes the 1970 tragedy actually brought the community together during a time when racial tensions at Marshall were high.
“People were at each other’s throats and the fact that the city police had to be called in,” Greenlee said. Then the crash happened the next night, and it’s like that all disappeared.”
The remembrance embraces several honored traditions. Football players place roses at the fountain base. Student leaders read the names of the 75 aloud. Ron Ferguson was one of the people this year to lay a wreath at the fountain base. The former Ceredo-Kenova firefighter said he was on the first fire truck to arrive at the plane crash scene.
“It took a long time for the community to get over the initial shock of the thing,” Ferguson said. “It’s just, it’s hard for me to talk about it because I was one of their first responders there and it was devastating for me. But it’s very important that everybody remembers.”
WSAZ-TV Sports Director Keith Morehouse lost his father Gene in the crash. His wife, Debbie Hagley Morehouse, lost both her parents that November night. They quietly attend every memorial, because Marshall has been so respectful to them over the years.
“It’s incumbent upon us to show up and, and show our appreciation and our respect,” Keith Morehouse said. “Everybody has their own way. But the fact that the university does this really has an impact on those of us who lost people that night.”
Every year, on this day, at the memorial’s end, the fountain is turned off until spring football practice, another way the Marshall community shows they will never forget.
You can find more information on the Marshall Plane Crash history and legacy here.