Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I’ll never forget my first public talk about ’70 crash

The author as a college DB from back in the day.

Two years ago, I agreed to go to Marshall University and speak about my recollections of the 1970 plane crash. Even though I accepted the invite, I had reservations.
        Evangelist Ed Carter issued the invitation. Ed was an MU offensive lineman in the early ‘70s. But his life was spared because of an advance warning from his mother who pleaded with him to not go on the road trip to East Carolina because there would be plane crash and no one would survive.
       The Marshall plane crash claimed the lives of seventy-five people, which included most of Marshall’s varsity football team. It’s considered to be the worst aviation disaster in the history of sports in America.
       Ed and I have known each other for over forty years. I got to know Ed as a teammate and when we both worked at the H.K. Porter Steel Mill one summer. The steel mill was only a 15-minute walk from Marshall’s campus.
       Over the years, Ed has visited Marshall quite frequently. During that time, he has spoken about his time at Marshall and how the tragedy eventually led to him starting Death Unto Life Ministries, a vibrant evangelistic ministry that’s now in its 36th year of existence.
        Ed had a speaking engagement at Marshall scheduled in November 2010, a few days after the 40th anniversary of the crash. He asked me to come because he felt it would be beneficial for another former Marshall player to share a different perspective about the night of November 14, 1970.
        It’s somewhat ironic that at the time, I was still working on finishing my first book November Ever After, which is a memoir about the plane crash, its aftermath, and how it affected the people who were left behind (book released in late August 2011).
       Looking back, I was somewhat nervous and apprehensive about this speaking engagement, mainly because I had no idea of what to expect. So many questions kept bouncing back and forth in my head.
  • What aspects of the tragedy should I talk about?
  • Would people really be interested in what I had to say about an event that happened such a long time ago?
  • How many people would come out to hear what Ed and I had to say?
  • Would they be receptive, and to what degree?
       We didn’t pack the house that night at the Don Morris Room which is housed inside Memorial Student Center on the MU campus. I’m guessing there were around 100 people who showed up.
       When my time came to speak, it was a moment in which all my questions about how I would do as a speaker and how the audience would react were answered in resounding fashion. I kept telling myself --- just tell the story, and let the story captivate and inspire.
        That’s when it became even more apparent that there’s so much more to the Marshall plane crash story than most folks realize. The audience was comprised of people of all age groups – some were college students, some were not. And what I enjoyed most was that afterwards, they didn’t mind asking questions.
        That was just another early confirmation of what I had felt since I started writing my memoir. The story about the Marshall plane crash, as told by those in my book November Ever After, is a story is whose time has finally come.

Photo courtesy of Huntington Advertiser archives

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