Saturday, November 26, 2011
'I have no idea what I would have said in response'
Coming home for Thanksgiving break during my junior year of college is a time that I’m not likely to ever forget. The 21-hour ride on the Greyhound bus from Huntington, West Virginia to Jacksonville, Florida seemed to take a lot longer than usual.
But on this occasion, in November 1970, things were far from being normal. Four days prior to catching a bus going south to go home, I was in Waco, Texas to attend the funeral of my best friend, Scottie Reese. Scottie, who played outside linebacker and defensive end, was among the 75 passengers who died in the fatal Marshall University football plane crash.
The long bus ride to Florida provided me with plenty of time to think and reflect on what had happened. Not that it really mattered. For whatever reason, my mind went blank. And I made a conscious effort to not think about the night when Marshall University lost most of its football team.
Coming home for that Thanksgiving weekend over 40 years ago is still one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. I remember talking to Andre Alston, a high school football teammate who lived close to the same neighborhood I lived in. I talked to Andre that weekend, and while he never said he was shocked to see me, I do remember his facial expression. He looked at me in such a way as if to assure himself that it was really me that he was talking to.
“Craig, we thought you were gone.”
Andre’s comment wasn’t all that surprising. There were only a few people back home who knew that I was no longer playing college football. So, I explained that I decided to walk away from the game, but that I had also decided that I would finish school at Marshall and not transfer somewhere else.
The whole time I was home, not one person ever asked me any details about what happened on the night of the plane crash. Maybe there was something in my tone of voice or my body language that prevented them from questioning me. And maybe it was a case of folks showing some sensitivity towards someone who had a personal connection with a horrible tragedy. And besides, I was hardly eager to provide any answers.
Even to this day, I have no idea what I would have said in response to any probing questions my friends may have asked.