Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th and the Marshall air tragedy

      Strange but true.
       There’s a bizarre connection between a well-known day of superstition and the Marshall plane crash of November 14, 1970. In the days leading up to the Thundering Herd’s road trip to East Carolina, there was an undeniable feeling of uneasiness among some of MU’s football players. They weren’t at all comfortable in having to leave town on a Friday the 13th.
       In the interviews I conducted for November Ever After, there were instances in which I learned that some of the players were fearful about their upcoming flight. Dickie Carter—a running back that quit the team a few weeks prior to the crash—told me about conversations he had with a few players. According to Dickie, the players spoke in a tone that gave the impression that they were not expecting to make it back alive. Some went as far as making arrangements to give their personal belongings away to girlfriends and family members.
       John Hagan, the team’s equipment manager, refused to go on the flight. Rather than fly, Hagan and student assistant David Byrd traveled by truck to East Carolina and they left on Friday. Hagan didn’t mince words about his decision. “It was Friday the 13th and I’m superstitious,” he told a reporter from the Associated Press. “Something just told me not to go on this trip.”
       Hagan heard about the crash on the drive back to West Virginia. A few days after the crash, a news photographer from the Herald-Dispatch newspaper captured a memorable image of Hagan. Inside the Herd’s locker room, Hagan is surrounded by reminders related to the tragedy. At his feet are the players’ duffle bags; to his right are shoulder pads and game uniforms. 
       The equipment made it back; the players did not.

1 comment:

  1. As a former equipment manager at Marshall, plus someone who knew and worked with John many years at MU, that photo is the most chilling to me personally of many I have seen. Many years, I would drive the truck as equipment manager while my two brothers, Bill and Jim - both student managers here, and Jim later as an assistant in athletics - would be in the plane during the 1988-92 era. In fact, the 1991 National Championship in Statesboro, Ga. was exactly that and driving back, we began to hear of "plane trouble" for the MU team - turned out to just be the chartered plane wouldn't start and a substitute was sent, but I have never pushed a Ryder truck so hard to find an exit and call for further information. By the way, John Hagan and my father-in-law, Bill Goad, live near each other here in Huntington and have worked any number of projects together as long-time friends. Funny how things come around.