|Donald Dedmon (Radford U.)|
Saturday, December 17, 2011
At memorial service, MU prez recalled halftime visit
November 15, 1970— Around 7 o’clock on a Sunday night, Memorial Field House begins to fill up quickly. On most occasions, people showed up in droves at this off-campus facility to watch Marshall University play its home basketball games. On this night, a large crowd would attend, but the reason for their presence had nothing to do with basketball.
They came to mourn and remember the seventy-five people who were killed in a tragic plane crash involving Marshall’s football team, coaching staff and supporters. It was only twenty-four hours earlier when the team’s chartered jet crashed into the side of a mountain and exploded. There were no survivors. The shock of the crash left people stunned, disturbed and bewildered.
At the podium Donald Dedmon, Marshall’s acting president, addressed the crowd of more than 7,000. He spoke about the overwhelming sorrow that impacted MU and the city of Huntington, West Virginia. Dedmon was keenly aware that the images from the night before were still fresh in the minds of all who had ties of any kind to the school and the city.
Instead of focusing on the widespread devastation caused by the tragedy, Dedmon chose to focus on happier times. He then proceeded to paint a portrait of an unforgettable moment that took place a week before the plane crash.
The following passages from the transcript of the speech that Dedmon delivered at the Sunday memorial service reveals so much about the heart and passion of the 1970 team. Here are excerpts from his speech:
“We cannot soon forget that horrible picture framed by the broken pines of a West Virginia hillside. But another picture comes to my mind which I know I shall never forget either—a happy picture. It was the picture of your loved ones and mine, a picture which revealed the best that there is in man.
There in a Fairfield Stadium dressing room a little over a week ago sat Marshall's players and Marshall’s coaching staff paced the floor. The invitation to speak to our boys greatly honored me and what I saw moved me deeply. Our coaches walked among the benches and had a quiet, private word with each player. I never could have believed had I not been there, how badly our boys wanted to win that day. Two openly wept, others were ill from the tension.
There were white students and black students, but they all wore the big green. The game marked a signal point in their life. Small in number but incredibly determined in spirit, they meant to win that final home game. And win they did—magnificently! It is that picture I want to begin to recall this evening.
Marshall is better for having had them all!”
The Thundering Herd rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Kent State 20-17. Excerpts of Dedmon’s speech courtesy of the Herald-Dispatch (WV) website.