This is not a post based on Jane Austen and her writing or on the Regency Period in England as you would customarily find on my blog. Rather it is a a moment in time when I stood witness to the true human spirit, and like so many others, I must speak of it. November 14 is the anniversary of one of the most tragic events I ever experienced, and I hope you will allow me to take you into my life, and by doing so, you will understand more of what makes me the person I am, as well as comprehend why I look to the simplicity of reading and writing romance for my release. When I think back to the moments in my life, which defined me as a person, one I must choose is my senior year in college. I attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
On November 14, 1970, the Marshall faithful followed the team to East Carolina University for a closely contested game. Returning to Huntington after the 17-14 loss, Flight 932, a chartered twin-engine Southern Airways DC-9, struck a tree on a hill 5,543 feet west of the runway. The plane cut a path 95 feet wide by 279 feet long through the tree line, even clipping an abandoned house. It crashed, nose-first, in a hollow 4,219 feet short of the runway. The plane, essentially, came apart. A fire melted most of the fuselage. All 75 people aboard, including the entire football team (37 players), coaches, team doctors, the university’s athletic director, 25 supporters (many prominent citizens of the town), and a crew of five, died. Even today, the cause remains uncertain: weather (fog and rain) or too low of a descent or improper use of cockpit instrumentation data.
Other than being a MU student and part time waitress, I also spent some time with a volunteer medical unit, one stationed close to the accident. (I later taught at one of the high schools in the area.) At the time, I thought I might become a nurse. I was certified in basic first aid, and I was not of the nature to panic when I encountered danger. Previously, I assisted several people in car wrecks and the like.
Upon my arrival at the scene, those in charge pressed me into combing the hillside for the bodies, one of the most horrendous experiences of my life. With flashlights and flares used for light, those of us determined to be of service began to gather what we could salvage. We each thought to discover someone clinging to life, but no such scene ever occurred. In the movie, We Are Marshall, there is a line that says something to the effect of “There are no survivors.” It always brings me to tears (even as I type this piece).
We were instructed to take our finds to a temporary morgue at the National Guard Armory at the airport. I recall the terrible moment when we realized we didn’t have enough body bags. It was a taste of reality that shook me to my core. If one looked to the hillside hosting the crash scene, he would find small fires that burned for hours. Only the jet’s engine and a wing section were recognizable to the investigators trying to piece together an explanation of a disaster.
Pieces of bodies were scattered throughout the area. White plastic was used to block the view of “interested” onlookers who rushed to the scene. What we could recover, we placed on sheets laid on the armory’s floor. I remember that, ironically, S. S. Logan Packing Company, distributor of the Cavalier meat brands, provided a cooling unit to preserve the bodies until they could be identified.
Over the next week and a half, I attended 13 funerals, three in one day alone. An “instant” snuffed out the lives of the young who still held “potential” before them (the players) and those who greeted life as a partner (mothers, fathers, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, coaches). A 52-minute flight changed a town and changed me. A grief impossible to explain gripped the area. It was not only that we lost a football program. In reality, we were not a powerhouse at the time, but we were one of the first schools to recruit Black athletes, a statement of change following the Civil Rights movement. And like every young person, I held my hopes set on a brighter tomorrow. The crash was a gaping hole waiting to be healed.
The fictional character of Annie Cantrell in the movie commemorating this event says of the grief: Those were not welcome days. We buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiancés. Clocks ticked, but time did not pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. When once there was sound, now there was silence. What once was whole, now was shattered.
Despite our common anguish, things happened to keep the hope alive. The NCAA permitted Marshall to play freshmen, something never allowed previously, and with the insistence of Nate Ruffin, a man who later served on the university’s Alumni Board, as did I, the program became whole again. Walk-on players stepped up, and a team resurfaced.
I would like to tell you that the program miraculously became automatic winners, but that would be a lie. For my birthday weekend, the first game in 1971, I was among those in the stands at Morehead State University watching the “Young” Thundering Herd; and although MU lost, many of us saw it as a victory for the university and the town. The next weekend, I was again among the throng crowded into Fairfield Stadium for the team’s first home game. And miracle of miracles, God answered the combined prayer of a crazed crowd – from those who pleaded for a sign that He had not forsaken them. I am not one to beg God for winning lottery numbers or for an unexpected inheritance, but I admit to adding my silent prayers for a win and was granted a last-minute one over Xavier. For hours afterwards, we remained in the stands, hugging strangers who shared the joy of seeing hope resurrected.
Marshall won only one more game that season, and for over a decade the university and the town suffered through numerous losing seasons; yet, even with those losses, people remembered the Xavier win. Often one heard someone say, “Were you here when the plane crashed?” Meaning, “Do we have a shared identity?” In the mid-80’s, MU won a I-AA National Championship and in the 90s it won more games than any other Division I team. Like every other school, MU has its good seasons and its rebuilding ones, but football is not the lesson here.
What did I learn from this tragedy? First, life is short. Embrace each day as if it is your last. Secondly, hope never dies. Even when faced with complete devastation, some moment, no matter how brief, tells a person that the phoenix will rise from the ashes. That man can step into the light once again. Lastly, true love is the most compelling of tasks. It is what sees us through the darkness.
November 14, 1970, serves as a defining date in my life. Like many who experienced this tragedy first hand, I am forever changed. However, the release of the 2006 movie We Are Marshall filled that gaping hole. I cried the first time I saw the film – the memory still too raw even after 35 years, but with each subsequent viewing, the hurt has lessened. Instead of death, I now view the resiliency of the human spirit. That resiliency and that need for hope and love are the subject of my writing.
The Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated to the memory of the plane crash victims on November 12, 1972. Each year on the crash’s anniversary the water is turned off until the next spring. Its creator Harry Bertora said, “I hoped the fountain would ‘commemorate the living – rather than the dead – on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging, so to express upward growth, immortality, and eternality.'”
As a footnote to my tale, I would also like to point you to a book on the tragedy, but one written by a man NOT on that fateful flight. November Ever After comes to us at the hands of Craig T. Greenlee, a man who left the Marshall football program in 1969 for personal reasons, but returned to rebuild the program after the plane crash. You can learn more of Mr. Greenlee’s story HERE.
November Ever After: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph in the Wake of the 1970 Marshall Football Plane Crash
The legacy of the players who perished in the 1970 Marshall football plane crash transcends wins and losses. Their tragic deaths squashed the likelihood of a bloody race riot on campus. Students at Marshall University had no idea that the horrific events on the night of November 14 would change their lives forever. The team’s plane crashed into the side of a mountain, and there were no survivors among the 75 passengers. Unless you were there, you could never comprehend the full gravity of grief that engulfed a college town in the days following the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports. I know a lot about it. For two seasons, I was a Marshall football player. But for personal reasons, I decided that 1969 would be my last hurrah. As things turned out, it proved to be a life-saving choice. Had I not walked away from the game, I know it could have been me on that plane. When the school started to pick up the pieces of the football program, it was a no-brainer for me to return and become part of the rebuilding process in the spring of 1971. Media projects devoted to the Marshall football crash generated well-deserved exposure. Even so, there are glaring omissions in those presentations. Through this book, the record is set straight. Former Marshall defensive back Craig T. Greenlee provides insights and recollections that you simply will not find in other media accounts about the tragedy and its aftermath.
I was not a college student at MU on that fateful day, nor was I within 500 miles of the mountaintop. Yet, the evening of Sat, Nov 14, 2010, remains to this day, like 11/22/63 or 9/11/01 for me and for sooo many people who resided in the small town of Lyndhurst, N.J. The Plane Crash impacted me in ways that I never would imagine nor could till this day understand. I know it also affected thousands of people in a similar way. I posted a remembrance of that day on my Facebook this morning and received so many responses, e-mails and tel calls from people from Lyndhurst who experienced The Plane Crash; people I never thought would be so affected.
I am today a N.J. State Superior Court Judge and Permanent Deacon of the Catholic Church. Please indulge me to share with you a recent Good Friday homily I preached:
IN HILLSIDE CEMETERY, ON ORIENT WAY IN LYNDHURST, THERE IS A GRAVE OVERLOOKING GIANTS’ STADIUM MARKED WITH THE HEADSTONE “LIONEL THEODORE SHOEBRIDGE, JR.” A FEW YARDS SOUTH, IN THE JEWISH SECTION OF THE CEMETERY, YOU’LL FIND THE GRAVE OF “MARCELO H. LAJTERMAN.” AMONG THE MANY THINGS THAT MARCEL AND TEDDY HAD IN COMMON WAS THEIR DATE OF DEATH: NOVEMBER 14, 1970.
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE? WHY DO INNOCENT CHILDREN HAVE TO SUFFER? WHY DO SOME PEOPLE DIE YOUNG? WHY DO ACCIDENTS HAPPEN? WHY DO HURRICANES, EARHTQUAKES, AND TSUNAMIS OCCUR, LEAVING DEATH & DESTRUCTION, DISEASE AND FAMINE IN THEIR WAKES? WHY?
TRAGIC EVENTS OFTEN TRIGGER THE QUESTIONS: “IS THEIR REALLY A GOD?” AND IF SO, “WHY WOULD HE ALLOW SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN?” OUR FAITH IS TESTED, AND SHAKEN TO THE CORE. FOR SOME PEOPLE, IT’S JUST TOO MUCH: THEY’RE HURT; THEY’RE ANGRY; THEY TURN AWAY FROM GOD; AND LIVE OUT THEIR LIVES, CONSUMED WITH ANGER AND PAIN.
A FEW YEARS AGO, THE MOVIE “WE ARE MARSHALL” PLAYED IN THEATERS. NOW, IT CAN BE VIEWED ON DVD. THE MOVIE TOLD THE TRUE STORY OF THE AFTERMATH OF A PLANE CRASH IN HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WHICH KILLED THE ENTIRE MARSHALL UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL TEAM, ITS COACHES, SUPPORTERS, AND THOSE PARENTS WHO WERE ON THE PLANE. THE STUDENTS AND RESIDENTS OF HUNTINGTON ALL ASKED WHY? WHY WOULD GOD LET THIS HAPPEN TO THEIR FRIENDS, TO THE UNIVERSITY, TO THEIR CITY?
THE MOVIE PORTRAYS HOW THE CRASH AFFECTED THE UNIVERSITY AND THE COMMUNITY, AND HOW THE STUDENTS, THE TOWNSPEOPLE, AND OTHERS RESPONDED TO THE TRAGEDY. IT’S A STORY OF DEATH, OF HOPE, AND ULTIMATELY, OF RESURRECTION.
WE ALL REMEMBER WHERE WE WERE ON THE MORNING OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. THAT DAY AFFECTED ALL OF OUR LIVES AND TOUCHED THIS COMMUNITY IN MANY PAINFUL WAYS. FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS WERE TAKEN FROM US. THOSE WHO WERE IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER THAT DAY AND SURVIVED MAY STILL EXPERIENCE NIGHTMARES FROM WHAT THEY WITNESSED. WE’VE ALL ASKED THE SAME QUESTION “WHY?” ABOUT THE EVENTS OF 9-11.
I WAS A STUDENT ATHLETE, WELL, MORE STUDENT THAN ATHLETE, AT LYNDHURST HIGH SCHOOL IN 1970. WHOEVER LIVED IN LYNDHURST DURING THAT TIME WILL NEVER FORGET, BUT WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER, WHERE THEY WERE AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING ON THE NIGHT OF NOVEMBER 14, 1970.
I REMEMBER IT AS IF IT WAS LAST NIGHT. IT WAS A SATURDAY EVENING AND MY PARENTS HAD GONE OUT TO DINNER. I WAS NOT HAPPY BECAUSE I HAD TO STAY HOME TO BABYSIT MY YOUNGER SISTERS. I WAS WATCHING TELEVISION, WHEN A NEWSFLASH CAME ACROSS THE SCREEN, AND THE ANNOUNCER SAID: “WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR A SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN. UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL REPORTS THAT A SOUTHERN AIRWAYS JET, CARRYING THE MARSHALL UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL TEAM, CRASHED ON LANDING IN HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA. THERE ARE NO SURVIVORS. DETAILS AT 11.”
I KNEW TEDDY AND MARCEL, TWO OF THE MARSHALL UNIVERSITY TEAM MEMBERS WHO PERISHED IN THE CRASH THAT EVENING. EVERYONE KNEW TEDDY AND MARCEL. THEY WERE THE KIND OF PERSONS YOU WANTED TO HAVE AS A BIG BROTHER. PRO FOOTBALL SCOUTS HAD PREDICTED BOTH WERE “CAN’T MISS,” FUTURE NFL STARS. AFTER MARCEL KICKED A 56 YARD FIELD GOAL, THE OPPOSING COACH, WHO TODAY IS A WELL-KNOWN SPORTSCASTER, TOLD MARCEL THAT HE WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO WATCHING HIM PLAY ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS. AND IF YOU LOOK BACK INTO THE RECORD BOOKS THAT YEAR, AMONG THE TOP COLLEGE QUARTERBACKS, STATISTICALLY, WERE NAMED: THEISMANN, PLUNKETT, BRADSHAW, AND SHOEBRIDGE.
SHORTLY BEFORE THE TELEVISION ANNOUNCEMENT, THE PRESIDENT OF MARSHALL UNIVERSITY TELEPHONED MSGR. BECK AT SACRED HEART, TO DELIVER THE TRAGIC NEWS TO TEDDY’S PARENTS. WITHIN MINUTES, THE TOWN WAS BUZZING, AND IT SEEMED AS THOUGH THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY DESCENDED UPON THE SHOEBRIDGE AND LAJTERMAN HOMES TO CONSOLE THEM AND TO SHARE THEIR GRIEF.
AND YOU COULD HERE A PIN DROP IN CHURCH THE NEXT DAY, ALL EYES FIXED ON TEDDY’S BROTHERS, TOMMY AND TERRY, AS THEY WALKED IN, KNELT DOWN AND PRAYED DURING MASS. I’M SURE THEY WERE ASKING GOD “WHY?” AS WE ALL WERE IN THE SILENCE OF OUR HEARTS. WHAT PURPOSE DID IT SERVE TO TAKE THEM FROM THEIR FAMILIES AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE, WITH SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR?
TEDDY’S BROTHERS, & MARCEL’S YOUNGER BROTHER, WERE TEAMMATES & CLASSMATES OF MINE. THERE WAS A PALL OVER THE SCHOOL AND THE TOWN FOR A VERY LONG TIME AS THE COMMUNITY GRIEVED OVER THE LOSS OF THEIR FAVORITE SONS. EVEN TODAY, THERE STILL ARE VISIBLE REMINDERS OF MARCEL & TEDDY AROUND TOWN, & THE MOVIE “WE ARE MARSHALL” BRINGS THEIR STORY TO A GENERATION WHO NEVER KNEW THEM.
ALTHOUGH NOT WRITTEN ANYWHERE IN THE GOSPELS, I’M SURE THAT AS MARY KNELT AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS, HELPLESSLY WATCHING, AS HER ONLY SON WAS DYING IN FRONT OF HER, SHE WAS ASKING GOD “WHY?” AFTER ALL, JESUS WAS THE INNOCENT OF ALL INNOCENTS, FREE FROM SIN AND GUILT. “WHAT PURPOSE DOES IT SERVE FOR MY SON TO SUFFER AND DIE THIS WAY, AT THIS TIME AND AT THIS PLACE?” SEE, NEITHER MARY NOR ANYONE ELSE UNDERSTOOD; NOT UNTIL EASTER MORNING.
THE STORY OF MARSHALL UNIVERSITY DIDN’T END ON A FIERY HILLTOP IN WEST VIRGINIA. ITS FOOTBALL PROGRAM ROSE FROM THE ASHES TO BE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE PROGRAM IN THE 90s, WINNING TWO NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. THE CITY IS THRIVING, AND THE UNIVERSITY IS TODAY ONE OF THE FINEST IN THE LAND.
ONE OF MARCEL’S BROTHERS WENT ON TO PLAY PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL, AND ONE OF TEDDY’S BROTHERS PLAYED PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL. THEY ALL NOW LEAD SUCCESSFUL LIVES. TEDDY’S PARENTS AND MARCEL’S FATHER HAVE GONE HOME TO GOD AND ARE SURELY REUNITED WITH THEIR SONS. AND I KNOW THAT IF YOU ASK THE SURVIVING BROTHERS TODAY, THEY’LL TELL YOU THE MEMORY OF THAT NIGHT IS STILL FRESH, AND THE PAIN OF LOSS DOESN’T GO AWAY, IT JUST NUMBS OVER TIME. IT IS THEIR FAITH THAT GIVES THEM THE STRENGTH TO REMEMBER THEIR BROTHER WITH JOY AND LAUGHTER, GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR THE SHORT TIME THEY HAD TOGETHER.
WE NEVER DO GET A DIRECT ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: “WHY?” THERE ARE TIMES WHEN NOTHING THAT WE SAY OR DO CAN CHANGE WHAT HAS HAPPENED. WE CANNOT RAISE A DEAD CHILD TO LIFE; THERE ARE NO WORDS WE CAN PRONOUNCE THAT WILL CURE CANCER OR LOWER TAXES. BUT IF WE CHANGE THE FOCUS FROM “WHY” TO “WHO”, WE MAY GET A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON THE TRAGEDIES THAT VISIT US. AND THAT “WHO” IS JESUS CHRIST. IT’S AT THESE TIMES THAT WE NEED TO MOVE CLOSER TO GOD; NOT AWAY FROM HIM. WHAT WE CAN DO IS MAKE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE REALTIES OF OUR LIVES AND THE REALITIES OF THE GOSPEL. IF WE REMEMBER THAT GOD, IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST, IS ONE OF US; THAT THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US.
IF WE CAN IDENTIFY WITH JESUS AND RECOGNIZE THAT HE IDENTIFIED WITH US, WITH THE HUMAN REALITIES OF PAIN AND SUFFERING.
HE MOURNED AT THE LOSS OF HIS FRIEND LAZARUS. HE SUFFERED FATIGUE, HOSTILITY, ABANDONMENT, AND EVEN TREACHERY FROM ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS. HE ACCEPTED DEATH, DEATH ON A CROSS. IF WE REMEMBER THESE THINGS, THEN WE’LL BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR SUFFERING & HIS SUFFERING; BETWEEN HIS DEATH & OUR LIFE.
BECAUSE WE ARE ALL PART OF THE “MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST,” WE CAN JOIN OUR SUFFERINGS TO JESUS’ PASSION AND DEATH. . JOHN PAUL THE GREAT WROTE IN HIS ENCYCLICAL SALVIFICI DOLOROS (THE MEANING OF HUMAN SUFFERING), THAT “CHRIST ANSWERS US FROM THE CROSS, FROM THE HEART OF HIS OWN SUFFERING. HE INVITES US TO FOLLOW HIM; TO TAKE UP HIS CROSS; TO LIFT UP OUR SUFFERINGS TO HIM. IN THIS WAY, WE UNITE OURSELVES TO CHRIST, NOT ON A HUMAN LEVEL, BUT AT THE LEVEL OF THE SUFFERING OF JESUS. AND AT THE SAME TIME, CHRIST DESCENDS TO OUR HUMAN LEVEL AND MEETS US THERE ON THE CROSS, WHERE WE ARE GRACED WITH INTERIOR PEACE, AND EVEN SPIRITUAL JOY.” Salvifici Doloros.
THE GOSPEL READING TODAY CONCLUDED WITH THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF JESUS. BUT THE STORY DOESN’T END ON THE HILL WE CALL CALVARY. BECAUSE JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS, WE LIVE, AND BECAUSE HE ROSE ON EASTER SUNDAY, WE LIVE FOREVER. TODAY’S GOSPEL IS NOT ONLY A STORY OF DEATH; IT’S A STORY OF HOPE, AND ULTIMATELY, OF RESURRECTION.
THE INSCRIPTION ON TEDDY SHOEBRIDGE’S HEADSTONE READS “WE WIN IN THE BIG THINGS.” ON THIS MOST SOLEMN DAY OF THE YEAR, WE HONOR OUR LORD & SAVIOR, WHO BY HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS, LEADS US TO THE BIGGEST VICTORY OF ALL, THE VICTORY OF LIFE OVER DEATH.
Thank you for your post.
We in Huntington at that time next stopped to think what the lives of so many young people did to other communities. We were selfish in some ways because they were “our” children. We had adopted them when they came to play at Marshall. Thank you for a reminder of how this event affected so many others.
I just read your post,today I woke up and just started to think of my best friend’s brother,Teddy who had passed,oddly enough some33years later living across the country from Lyndhurst,I wake up and was thinking of Terry,Tommy,and Teddy,the big brother who use to give us rides to school in his aqua colored convertible ,he was great guy,made me feel like he was my big brother.
On this day I pray for Teddy and his wonderful family, and Lyndhurst a town I miss.
Thanks for the whole story Jimmy,I got a lump in my throat.
I was 9 when the Marshall plane crash happened. I was watching the Newly Wed Game when the crawl came across the bottom of the screen announcing a plane had crashed at tri-state airport. My Dad and Uncle left to go help, but couldn’t get close. As days followed and the tragedy began to consume us, I remember asking my Dad to take me as close as we could get. He took me up on 75 *
Sorry, didn’t finish. He took me up 75 hill, and o could still smell the jet fuel burning and burnt brush. I just stood there and cried. I for one, WILL NEVER FORGET.
It is something which sticks in one’s gut…an image that will not go away. When I visit my grandmother’s grave at Springhill, I go to the Marshall memorial there. It is very humbling.
I was 11 years old when the Marshall plane crashed. I was also in the second car that arrived at the scene. My father, brother and I were headed to Kenova to pick up my sister at a church youth function. My Dad pulled over headed up the hill; the plane crash to our right. He wouldn’t allow me, or my brother, to get out of the car. Upon exiting the car, my Dad leaned over and picked up something in the road. I later learned that it was Ted Shoebridge’s wallet. At that time, there were no fire trucks, ambulances, etc. at the site, and my brother and I were listening to the radio. The airport was reporting the crash, but at first they really had no idea who had crashed. I have so many memories of that night, and they are as clear now as they were 40 years ago. During the various activities for the movie, I was introduced to Tommy Shoebridge, who was shocked to find out the true story of his brother’s wallet; he told me that after the investigation was completed, the wallet was returned to his family and is now in his possession.
Pam, Thank you for sharing your story with me. It was a terrible, terrible night. I knew some of the players, and later, spent time with Reggie and Nate in other capacities. A woman who turned out to be one of my best friend’s ever is in the documentary because she lived so close to the airport. It is a collective grief we suffer, and with any type of grief, it is important to speak of it. That is part of the healing process.
I lived in Lyndhurst, N.J. during 1956-1069. I went to Lincoln School and was in 7th grade, when I met Teddy Shoebridge, who was in 8th grade at the same school. I remember his kindness to the shy girl I was. I felt very saddened by his early death and I have seen the movie ‘We Are Marshall’ more than once. I plan to see ‘Ashes To Glory’ when I can locate it. Though I no longer live in Lyndhurst, I remember the closeness of that town and I mourn with them forever.
Rosemary, it was a tragedy in its strictest definition, but as the movie says, “from the ashes we rose.” Huntington will forever wear the mark of that night. I am sorry for your loss. I did not know Ted Shoebridge, personally, but those who did speak fondly of him.
Regina, thank you for your post. I was watching the movie and, skeptic that I am, went online in search of facts. As is usually the case, critics were easy to find. Your post, however, captivated me, inspired me, moved me to tears and restored my optimism.
Life is filled with tragedy – whether it’s a plane crash or your mother dying of cancer. But in any tragedy there is inevitably some beauty that rises from the ashes…eventually. Your writing and your story are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Julie, there is a multitude of articles on the crash on The Herald Dispatch website. That is the Huntington, WV, newspaper, and it has an archived look at the tragedy. Thank you for your kind words regarding this event.
I wasn’t on this earth at that time but my mother and grandmother were. I was born in 1973, they told me about the crash, the people they knew on board the plane. To honor them I wore #14 and #44 in football and baseball while playing sports like Ted did and I joined Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity just as Ted and 4 others had done. I’ve been to the monuments and the memorials, Ive been to the memorial services held by the University and the PiKes every year leaving with tears in my eyes. The pain felt that day has truly been felt for generations and will continue to be felt for more generations in the future. In the words of the Marines my message to Ted and the 74 others who lost their lives on November 14, 1970…..SEMPER FI!!! which means “Always faithful”
Pardon me,it has been 43 years Jimmy.
God Bless Them All!
Just read this for the 1st time Judge. If i may: I grew up in Rutherford in the 60s and 70’s. My dad, Dr. Michael R .Loreti, was a general practitioner in Lyndhurst at the time and was the sideline physician for high school football team. Sometimes I could get on the sidelines. Ted Shoebridge was my first sports hero at any level. To me, he was larger than life. I will never forget the time when he had to briefly come out of the game for Dad to examine him. I asked if he was gonna be OK, and Ted patted me on the head and said “Don’t worry sport, I’ll be fine.” I remember telling this to the kids at school and they were so envious! I can still recall fetching the NY Times from our patio on the morning following the crash and cried once I realize my hero was gone! A very sad time indeed! I have the DVD of the movie have seen it numerous times, a great “rise from the ashes” feel to it. Rest in peace, Ted.
Thank you for sharing your story, Brian. I watched the movie last Saturday evening (after the Marshall loss to Rice in the Conference USA championship), and I cried throughout it. I was at the Xavier game and the Morehead State game and many more because the “healing” was slow in coming. By the way, I recently received this message from Craig Greenlee (a Marshall journalism grad):
Hello Regina … I’m hoping you are the same person who wrote the blog entry from 2010 about the Marshall plane crash. I’ve written a memoir (November Ever After) and because of all the feedback I’ve gotten from readers, I’ll soon start work on a sequel. Would love to get your input for the sequel. The book’s blog site is http://NovemberEverAfter.com
Thanks in advance for your consideration
November Ever After
A former player’s memoir about the 1970 Marshall plane crash and its aftermath.
I thought you might be interested in the book and his next project regarding the tragedy. God bless you and yours…
One of my former pastors, a man named Ricky Riggs, had quit the team not long before the crash because God called him to go to seminary. I will never forget him telling us, with tears filling his eyes and choking his voice, the story of his team and the sorrow he felt for so long that his friends had died and he was still alive. We watched We Are Marshall on a Saturday night movie night at the church. It is a huge testament to the sense of community Marshall University and Huntington had, and I’d imagine still have, that they were able to support each other so well and recover as they did. My heart breaks for what you had to see and do, Regina. I’m in awe of you; I am not sure I could have done what you did that night. (((hugs)))
Some 25 years after the crash, my son was in middle school in the Columbus, Ohio, area. He had a t-shirt on commemorating the 1970 team, and his band director asked him of the shirt and his connection to Marshall. He told him I was a senior that year. Ironically, his band director’s brother was on the flight. The young man was a reporter for the MU newspaper, the Parthenon. Our world shrinks by the day, Zoe, as the situation in Paris yesterday fully highlights. Thank you for your kind words.
I remember standing in front of the Marshall Players’ grave site and monument and noticing that one of those young men was born in 1947—-the same year I was born. I began to wonder why I had been allowed to go ahead and live my life, graduate from Marshall, teach school, raise my son, retire from teaching, and continue on. . . . . . And yet, he was not. I do know that this is not our final home. We have to live our life the best that we can and know that the Lord has a plan for all of us until we go “home”.
Linda, we were fortunate to have known some of those who passed. We cross paths with others, not by accident, but with a purpose. From each, we learn a lesson.
You and I were also fortunate to be a part of the BHS family. We were in a unique setting, especially in education. We built new “families” among those we taught.
How very true about the unique setting for BHS. Our small school had no town, and we were all rural kids. How many people can count former teachers and school administrators amongst their friends? Most of us that attended Buffalo do, just as most of us from BHS are still friends with those that attended school with us. Starting first grade and going thru sixth grade, then crossing the street to attend seventh grade thru twelfth grade, having the same bus driver for all those years. I believe this taught many of us to get along with someone and respect their opinion, even when it and they differed from you and your opinion, because you were were going to be seeing them day in and day out and there was no tolerance for fighting. I am proud of my WV heritage and even more proud of being a BHS graduate!
Pam, when I moved to NC, I purposely sought out a rural school with what I hoped was the same atmosphere as what I knew at BHS. It is rare to find a community who all attend a graduation, even if no one in their families are graduating that year. Or to find a community where everyone comes out to a dinner theatre put on my a group of students. BHS was a special place, and I proud part of my history rests therein.
Thank you for sharing your story. My father recently retired from Marshall, and I’ve had the privilege of visiting the memorial and hearing first-hand accounts.
It was the worst of times for us in Huntington.
God bless you and yours.
I decided to take a break from my writing project so was scrolling through blog posts. Wow, Regina! I had no idea you had this heritage. I was born after the crash and on the other side of the country with no connections (to my knowledge) with the tragedy. I learned about it through the movie. My husband and I both got emotional. Not because of the football, but the human story behind it. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.
There is a line in the movie to the effect of “There are no survivors,” which always tears me up, Sophia. Even so, the story being told through the movie is a tale of the survival of the town and the team. Although some dramatic license was taken, it stays close to the truth.
A beautifully written story Regina. Being from Australia I wasn’t aware of this, but it reminds me of another air crash and the loss of another football team — Manchester United in 1957. My husband is named for Duncan Edwards, the young team captain.
Thanks for sharing your memories. That one was in Munich, if I recall, Elizabeth. I was only about 10 at the time of the actual crash, but learned something of it from a Manchester fan I met some years ago at an American “soccer” game. Tragedy brings out the best in people.
My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories about life-shaping events and experiences. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “My Memories of the Marshall University Plane Crash.” It’s a beautiful tribute to those who died in the plane crash and powerful message to readers. For these reasons, I think it would make a wonderful youshare.
If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I have watched the movie several times and cried. I can’t imagine being one of the many people directly affected by this tragedy.
Oh Regina, I am so sorry for the pain and loss you and the families experienced. May we always remember them…
The memories are not so sad as they once were, Carole, but the least little thing can trigger them – very much like soldiers speak of with PTSD.
Death hurts no matter who it is or how you know them. Tragic and sudden death thru accidents such as this plane crash hurts even deeper. I remember that when it happened through the news papers and tv news. I always feel so sad for the families of those who have their whole lives to live and are gone too soon.
But I always say, God has a plan for each of us and we don’t know what that plan is and that is what has helped me to loosing both of my daughters, at different times, but very suddenly and unexpected.
My deepest sympathy to you and what you witnessed looking for bodies. I know that had to be one of the hardest things you had to do, Working in surgery, it was hard to lose a patient and you never get used to it but you try to save the next one.
You are in my thoughts and I hope this gets better as time goes on but you will never forget!
I know as a nurse, you hold a multitude of those moments in your heart. My friend, Sharon Lathan, speaks of them, as do two other of my friends who were former nurses. I might have stayed as an EMT, for that was my first choice of occupations, although I was training to be a teacher at that time. I cannot say the event had me purposely walking away from the medical field, but, I found, in that first year of teaching another path for my life, and I could still use my medical training upon occasion.
I have always believed, and continue to believe, that events in our live, good, bad, indifferent, make us the people we grow to be.
I can only imagine the horror of that night and the months and years afterwards.
The healing has been slow for both the town and me. We in America are defined by our traditions, and sports are part of a small town’s identity. The resilience of the community is as much a part of the story as the tragedy.
Thanks so much for putting up this post. Blessings to you and the community and to those who lost so many.