Editor's Note: On the forty-first anniversary of the 1970 Marshall football plane crash, the school’s student newspaper, The Parthenon, published a commemorative issue in recognition of the seventy-five people who perished. For this issue, MU journalism student Alianna Telles was assigned to write a feature story on Craig T. Greenlee, the author of the memoir November Ever After. Here’s the article in its entirety.
November 14, 1970 marks the darkest day in Marshall University history — the Marshall plane crash. That night, the university and community lost seventy-five members of the Marshall Thundering Herd. Craig T. Greenlee is one of many who have their own story to tell about it.
|The author played football for two seasons at Marshall.|
After leaving the team, Greenlee never had second thoughts about coming back. He had changed his major to journalism and enjoyed the switch. "I was really having a ball with it," Greenlee said. "I just really didn't miss it (the game) at all."
Then the plane crash occurred, changing everything for Greenlee and the entire university community. "I never considered the idea that there would be fatalities," Greenlee said. "I just kept thinking in my mind that it crashed, but I didn't think that everybody would be gone. I just never considered it."
Greenlee remembers that night. He also remembers that there were a lot of people who drove out to the crash site near the airport. He wasn't one of them. "I remember people going out there, but I didn't want to go out there because I wanted to remember the people the last way I saw them," Greenlee said. "I didn't want to see anything else."
"A week later when I went to my best friend Scottie Reese's funeral, it didn't really hit me until I was sitting there in the church, looking at the casket and seeing the jersey on top of it. I had just realized he was gone and that it had all really happened."
Though Greenlee had many with whom to share his grief, he didn't really vocalize it to anyone. "There was a lot of denial for many of us. We just really didn't talk much about it, or in some cases didn’t talk about it all because a lot of us really didn't know how to," he said. "A lot of us suffered silently and never really verbalized anything we felt about the plane crash. We just internalized it all."
In the spring of 1971, when the university started to rebuild the football program, Greenlee decided to rejoin the team and become a part of the rebuilding process. "It was the right thing and the only thing to do," Greenlee said. "They didn't have anybody but the people who were left behind."
Greenlee was the starting safety for the Thundering Herd in the spring of ’71. But a few weeks before the start of the ‘71 season, he decided it was time for him to leave the game for good. During the rest of his time at Marshall, Greenlee never really talked about the events surrounding the crash.
"It's kind of like being a soldier in combat. Most of the time, they don't really talk about what happens on the battlefield," he said. "They just don't talk about it. It's just the fact that you don't want to relive it in any way, shape or form. Mainly you keep it to yourself."
But now, Greenlee is finally telling his story through his new book, “November Ever After." The book tells the story of his time at Marshall and the decisions he made after the crash. While interviewing people for the book, Greenlee was able to learn so much more about that dark day.
"Some people remember parts of it differently," Greenlee said. "There are just so many things I haven't really thought about until I started writing and interviewing people. The most amazing thing that happened was that whoever I interviewed would say something that I had never heard before."
Before writing the book, Greenlee made his first ever visit to the plane crash memorial at Spring Hill Cemetery. He wanted to know more of the details that he purposely overlooked at the time of the crash.
"That was the hardest thing about it because when it happened there was only so much I wanted to know," Greenlee said. "By going back, it forced me to look at some things and have a better understanding of them."
Greenlee now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Cynthia. He still visits his alma mater whenever he can.
Alianna Telles can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.