Thursday, January 5, 2012
Author had no interest in aerial view of crash site
On the night of the Marshall crash, I kept my vow and stayed away from the scene of the disaster at Tri-State Airport. Six days later, though, I had to go to that same airport to catch a flight to Waco, Texas.
The time had come for me to say my farewells to my best friend Scottie Reese, whose funeral was held the Saturday after the crash. Scottie and I arrived at Marshall the same year (1968) and we both were starters on defense for the Thundering Herd’s undefeated freshman team. I played safety; Scottie was a defensive end and outside linebacker.
I took the trip to Texas with blinders on. Sheila Callahan and I were the student representatives from MU who attended the services for Scottie. On the drive from campus, I deliberately kept myself from looking around as we neared the airport. I had no interest in seeing anything that might provide even a hint of a reminder about the tragedy.
After I boarded the plane, I made sure to secure a seat next to the aisle. That’s not what I normally do when traveling by air. Usually, I sit at the window. That’s my preference because once the plane is airborne; I’m able to get an excellent view of different cloud patterns, the lay of the land below, and the sun (if it’s not overcast).
For this particular journey, there would be no sight-seeing from the aircraft for me. Why not? Clean-up of the crash site had not been completed and crews were still working.
I could only imagine what the scene may have looked like from the air. Just to make sure that I would never know for sure, I intentionally turned away from the window and towards the aisle. To keep from seeing anything from the opposite window on the other side of the aisle, I looked at the ceiling and the floor.
At other times, I just closed my eyes. I did this for about 20 minutes after liftoff from Tri-State. I figured that after that much time, the plane would be far away from the Huntington airport. In that situation, I could assure myself that even if I did look out the window, whatever I saw would not be anything I could associate with the plane crash.
Coming back on the return flight from Texas, I repeated that routine as the plane approached Tri-State Airport. I was relieved that I never had any haunting memories about the crash.