Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vivid memories of a New Jersey classmate

Quarterback Ted Shoebridge was a prized recruit coming out of high school.

Hello Craig,

Every year on November 14th I make it habit to scan the internet for articles about the Marshall plane crash.  I didn't go to Marshall, but my connection comes from being a teammate of quarterback Ted Shoebridge and kicker Marcelo Lajterman at Lyndhurst High School in New Jersey.  We played against running back
Art Harris who played at Passaic High School.  

Art was the best player I had ever played against. He was also a great baseball player, as was Ted.  One of the reasons Teddy chose Marshall was so that he could play baseball as well as football.  Lyndhurst was – and still is – a big baseball town. Art was the last of four straight All-State backs from Passaic ... one of the four was Jack Tatum (yes, the same Jack Tatum who was a menacing fixture in the secondary of those intimidating Oakland Raiders teams of the 1970s).

I remember that Saturday night (of the crash) like it was yesterday.  It was pouring rain, part of the same weather system that contributed to the crash.  I was at my fraternity house in Newark, New Jersey when one of my frat brothers told me that my parents had called and that I needed to come home immediately.  
Marcelo Lajterman

When I walked in, both my parents were sitting there crying and could barely tell me about the crash.  Teddy was one of my best friends and he was a hero to all of us.  He was simply the best athlete the town had ever produced.  

The shock and grief in our town was beyond anything any of us (of our age) had ever experienced.  

 I read on your blog about the racial confrontation at Marshall which occurred the day before the crash.  At that time in northern New Jersey, we were not far removed from the Newark riots.  Racial tensions were a reality in that area of the country as well as the south.

We (Teddy and Marcelo's teammates) went to Passaic to pay our respects to Art Harris's mother and sisters. Mrs. Harris also lost her husband in the crash.  Mrs. Harris was a German war bride who met Mr. Harris when he served in Germany during World War II.  

Seeing an interracial couple was certainly an oddity at that time, but as you state in your description of the situation after the crash, the racial differences didn't matter.  All that mattered was our shared grief and our common humanity.  I remember standing in Mrs. Harris's kitchen with Art's friends comforting each other and being together if only for that short period of time.

On the 25th anniversary of the crash, I was sitting in my living room watching college football, when all of a sudden a feature story about the crash came on.  There was a picture of the team, and Teddy, and the crash.  It overwhelmed me and I started sobbing. My wife walked into the room and asked me what had happened.  How do you explain that?

Before downloading your book onto my iPad, I thought I would have to read it with some trepidation. When I finished reading, I put a review on Amazon. I expected a detailed account of the plane crash.  What I got was so much more. Your description of your life on campus and with your friends rings so true.  I found your narrative of the joint funeral in Tuscaloosa (Alabama) especially moving. To imagine the impact of four lives lost in one community is heartbreaking.

At the end of your book you mention how every November you check to see what day the 14th falls on.  

Me too.

Thanks for writing November Ever After.

Roger A. Jacobsen
Attorney at law

Monday, November 11, 2013

Forty-something years later ... yes, it stll matters

Every year Marshall University pays homage to those who died in a fiery plane crash over four decades ago.

On the night of November 14, 1970, the school lost most of its varsity football team and coaching staff, along with administrators and a good number prominent people who were avid MU supporters. The Southern Airlines jet that crashed claimed the lives of seventy-five people. There were no survivors.

Herd QB Bob Harris in 1970.
Thursday of this week marks the 43rd year since the plane crash. Even though this happened such a long time ago, the memories remain and are just as clear today as they were on that dreadful night when a school and community were forced to deal with a tragedy of the highest degree. Given the amount of time that has passed, somebody will always ask this question:

Does it still matter?

It matters.
Very much.

Not only was I there at that time, but I wasn’t that far removed from the tragedy. As a former Marshall U. defensive back, I knew most of the players on that plane, which included my best friend Scottie Reese. I played two seasons and decided to walk away from the game the year before the crash. Looking back on it all, there’s a huge possibility that had I made a different decision, I would’ve been on the plane too.

There are many of us who are still around from back in the day. We remember the agony and confusion from those troubling days following the crash. But we also remember how the Thundering Herd rose from the ashes of devastation to eventually emerge as a highly successful program in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The beauty of the Marshall story is how the football program resurrected itself against seemingly insurmountable odds. The crash is still considered to be the worst air disaster in the history of American sports. Yet, from that tragedy, Marshall became one of the greatest comeback stories in all of college sports.

This story needs to be told. That’s what eventually prompted me to write the memoir November Ever After. It’s a story that’s timeless. It’s story that should be shared with future generations.

Since writing the memoir, I’ve learned how much this story resonates with young and old and how it has developed an attraction to football fans as well as those who have little or no interest in the game. The Marshall story is still relevant. That’s what I’ve discovered in my interactions with readers. It’s a story that’s worth preserving. In other words, it’s a story that still matters.

Please click on Video tab and watch "Tribute to the 75"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

“Stories of real people who lived through real pain”

Jim Gill
Editor’s Note: Jim Gill lives in an area of the country where the passion for football runs deep. Gill, who serves as Director of the Dover Public Library in Ohio, is a football fan who’s very familiar with the story of the Marshall University plane crash. Jim recently shared his thoughts about the book with me (see below).

I am captivated by the Marshall story and was browsing iBooks and downloaded the free sample of November Ever After.  I later purchased the print edition for the Dover Public Library. There are so many aspects of this story that captivate people nationwide – regardless of whether they are football fans or not.
In reading Craig’s book, I learned that there’s so much more to the story than just the crash and the rebirth of the football program.  I had no sense of the racial
issues that seethed through Huntington, West Virginia and the Marshall campus during that time.  The “Homegoing Caravan” was sad and beautiful all at the same time.  Ed Carter’s story is both chilling and inspiring.

The film We Are Marshall is a powerful portrayal of the crash and the rebuilding of the football program.  Sadly, most people who even know of the Marshall story view the story only through the Hollywood lens. November Ever After adds more depth to the story by bringing to light the stories of real people who lived through real pain.

November Ever After has been very popular in Dover. Thanks to the movie, the Marshall story has better name recognition with the average library patron. Craig’s book complements our existing collection very nicely. 
Libraries in communities that have a passion for football should definitely purchase this memoir for their collection — especially those in the Ohio River Valley. Thanks to the movie, the Marshall story has worldwide appeal now.
The first-person accounts in November Ever After resonate with people because they are true.  The stories of the people who lost their lives and those who survived strike an emotional cord. Deep down, we realize that those who perished were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. 

Those tragic deaths remind us of our own mortality. But the story does not end there.  Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the Marshall story is the tale of hope and rebirth and renewal. That is the real beauty of the story.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

'November Ever After' has company on book shelves

Sports history has always been a fascinating subject to a lot of people. That’s what I’ve discovered since November Ever After – my memoir about the 1970 Marshall University football plane crash – was published two years ago.

Since then, I’ve come across a lot of new information from a number of reliable sources. As a result, I’ve had to rethink my position about writing another book on the topic. For now, I’m not going into any detail about it. You’ll see more on that in the weeks to come.

As an author, I’ve learned that it takes a lot more work than most people will ever know to having a book published. It’s quite a journey to go from finishing the first chapter of a manuscript to seeing your book in print.

Two friends of mine – Les Hicks and Nate Northington – have recently published sports history-related books in 2013.

Hicks is the author of Against All Odds: Fourth Down and Forever, a book that details how the Marshall plane crash inspired him to live a life of serving others. Les was a defensive lineman at Marshall in the years that immediately followed the crash.

Northington’s autobiography Still Running is steeped in the history of college athletics in the Deep South from back in the day. Nate, a running back/defensive back/kick return specialist, signed with the University of Kentucky in the mid-1960s. He broke the color line as the first black athlete to play football in the Southeastern Athletic Conference.

You can take a look at these books on the web site.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Crash victim’s son “still a boy who longs for his dad”

Editor’s Note: Here’s a letter I received from Frank Loria Jr., the son of the one of the coaches who perished in the Marshall University football plane crash on November 14, 1970. Coach Frank Loria was my position coach when I played for the Thundering Herd.

Dear Craig,

I am the son of one of your former coaches at Marshall, Frank Loria. Just wanted to reach out and say how much I appreciate your book November Ever After. I especially enjoyed reading about the point you said my dad would always make about taking care of the little things and the big things will come. Since I was born December 30, 1970, I never knew him. Even so, I never tire of hearing things like that about him.
Just so you know my life has been great. Despite the void, I have a lot to be thankful for. My mom is a true hero and her story is a source of strength for me.  When my dad died she had my two older sisters (age 3 and age 1 at the time) and then of course me to take care of.  She really did a great job and the thing I most admire is that she never openly complained about the deal she was given.

I was fortunate to have constant reminders of who my dad was and what he stood for. As a kid his memory made me strive to excel in everything I did and to do so in an honest and good way. I wanted to be a “good boy” that my dad would have been proud of. That led me to go to West Point for college and serve proudly in the Army. That same desire to excel drives me today in the business world.  I may be a 42-year old man, but I am still a boy who longs for his dad. That may sound sad and I guess it is, but it helps me to be the best dad I can be to my two beautiful children.
I also appreciated your perspective about the tense race issues of those days. Marshall certainly was way ahead of its time in integrating folks from different races but that doesn't mean it was easy.  The thing is the crash didn’t discriminate. And from that it seems that, although not perfectly, people came together as human beings to grieve and then to move on.  Huntington, West Virginia is a special place.

This is the deal I have been given and I accept it. As I said, my life has been great and I am very happy.  But as you say in the book, “it's always with you.”  Life is messy!

My first visit to Marshall was in 2000 for the unveiling of the bronze statue and the 30th memorial of the plane crash. It was a time of healing for me. I got to meet a lot of people and for me it was most special to connect with other folks who lost parents.  There was an immediate bond of understanding and love. I have continued to go back as much as I can. I had the honor to speak at the 35th memorial which was really a privilege. I consider myself part of the Marshall family.

Anyway, I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for sharing your story.

Take Care,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Southside Connection: “November Ever After”

“I run into people all the time who tell me that they know about the movie (“We Are Marshall”), but they also want to know about the truth (“November Ever After”). What Warner Brothers did was fine in and of itself, but it didn’t go far enough. The movie proclaimed itself as a true story, when in actuality, it was not. The true story has enough in it, so it doesn’t need to be altered.”

Craig T. Greenlee, author

“November Ever After”

The above is an excerpt from Greenlee’s interview on the radio talk show “Southside Connection,” hosted by Ed Lane. The show airs weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPN Southside (1160 AM) in Martinsville, Virginia. Click on the link below to listen to the podcast which is posted on the ESPN Southside web site.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Upcoming interview on sports radio talk show

“November Ever After” author Craig T. Greenlee was a guest on the sports radio talk show “Southside Connection” with host Ed Lane earlier this week. A podcast of the interview will be made available soon. Check back on this site to find out when the interview will be posted.

The veteran sports writer and former Marshall University football player, will talk about the circumstances that prompted him to write a memoir about the 1970 plane crash that killed most of Marshall’s football team.

Greenlee will also discuss why he felt compelled to do author a sequel, which is scheduled to be published over the next 12 to 18 months. 

“Southside Connection” airs weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPN Southside (1160 AM) in Martinsville, Virginia.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

“I thought I knew all there was to know …”

Author’s Note: Thought I’d share this message I received from a Marshall alumnus. It never ceases to amaze me how the story of the Marshall University football plane crash and its aftermath continues to resonate with people of all ages, races and cultures.

Hello Craig,

This past Christmas, my wife bought me a copy of your book November Ever After.  I cannot tell you how much I loved your book!  I have read probably a dozen or so books on the subject of the 1970 plane crash, but your book included information I had never heard about. 

I thought I knew all there was to know about this tragedy until I read your book.  I had NO IDEA your freshman team at Marshall was undefeated while the varsity played so poorly in 1968. 

Just think of what kind of team you could have fielded in 1969 had there been no recruiting scandal!  I also had no clue about the racial tension on campus at the time.  I assumed there was, as that was happening on college campuses all over the U.S. But stories such as the intramural football game involving the Kappa Alpha fraternity and the fight in the Twin Towers dining hall were simply fascinating.  Reading about the atmosphere on campus immediately following news of the crash from somebody living on campus was incredibly interesting as well.

My father (Peter Barr) came to Marshall in the fall of 1968.  My mother (Carol Topping) started her freshman year at WVU in 1968, but came to Marshall in 1969.  Her parents owned the Stationers Office Supply chain. One of the stores was located on 5th Avenue in Huntington, not too far from where your practice field was. 

My mother was a member of Alpha Xi Delta, and was living in the sorority house when news of the crash broke.  She too remembered screams from her sisters as they discovered that their boyfriends were gone.  Since both her family and my father’s family were born and bred in Huntington, both of their families lost a lot of friends that night was well.  

In 2000, I performed at the 30th Anniversary Memorial on campus (I was a Music major at MU).  Both you and my parents graduated from Marshall years before I did, and although I have never met you, it kind of feels like we are all related and bound together by this school and a tragedy that no one else from any other school can relate to.

Unfortunately, you experienced it face to face.  Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences through your incredible book, so that those of us who were not there, can continue to honor a respect the memories of those who were.

Go Herd! 

Jason P. Barr
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music
Glenville State College
Glenville, West Virginia
(MU Class of 2003)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Greenlee speaks: ‘It’s a story whose time has come’

The memoir November Ever After is an up-close and personal look at the 1970 Marshall University football plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 people. The crash is considered to be the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports.

Author Craig T. Greenlee discusses the memoir – which readers have discovered to be a “compelling true story with historical significance,” in an interview on the Book Tour Radio web site.

Book Tour Radio serves as a viable on-line platform for book authors of all genres, which run the gamut from biographies, fiction and poetry to romance, sci-fi and self-help.
Interviews are conducted by host Julie Joyce, the executive producer of BTR.

Click on the link below which will take you to the author page. To listen to Greenlee’s interview, scroll down the page and click on the MP3 file. You can also download the file on your computer and listen at a later time if you so desire.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Writing this memoir was truly a catharsis for me"

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from an interview with author Craig T. Greenlee in Black Pearls Online Magazine. The Q&A is featured in the "Speak Brothers Speak" section on the web site. BPM is a free digital magazine whose purpose is to inspire, encourage and empower an international readership. The magazine's mission is to provide information that is essential, enlightening and entertaining.

BPM: Who did you write the book for? Why now? Why was this book important to create?

Greenlee: The book was written primarily for those folks whose personal stories about the crash have never been told before. Looking back on the publication process, I realized that I also wrote this book for myself, even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time. After finishing the manuscript, it dawned on me that writing this memoir was a truly a catharsis for me.

There is closure, but I’m not sure if it’s complete. Maybe that’s why I feel driven to produce a sequel in the near future.  On several levels, it might seem strange that it took more than four decades for this book to come to fruition. But I’ve concluded that it’s all about timing. The time has finally arrived for this story to get widespread exposure.

In years past, quite a few people who had stories to share were not eager to do so for one reason or another. But now, those same people have shown a willingness to be candid about all of the emotional ups and downs that they experienced as it relates to the crash and its aftermath.

This is a story that’s long overdue. So now, readers can examine the human interest aspect of this historical event – directly from the mouths of those who were on the scene at the time. Readers will discover that while football is the centerpiece for the book, there are so many other elements involved that when combined, make for a riveting story.