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

1 comment:

  1. In 2000, I attended the screening of the 'Ashes to Glory' documentary on the MU Crash of 1970 in Huntington. Prior to the screening, there was a memorial service at the First Baptist Church. My friends Nate Ruffin, Reggie Oliver and coach Mickey Jackson were there and I also met the brother of Marcel Lajterman at that event. Afterwards at another reception at the former Huntington Bank, I recognized Dennis Foley, who had also quit the team before the crash. Dennis was Marcel's roommate at South Hall where I was a Resident Adviser. When I introduced Dennis to Marcel's brother, it was overwhelming for both. Dennis works for the IRS here in Columbus and had not spoken much about that experience to anyone. The film was impactful and I spotted my sister who worked on the student newspaper on camera at the end of a press conference. Also in the film Felix Jordan was incorrectly identified as Craig Greenlee because he later wore the same uniform number. number. Coincidentally, I received a call today form Ed Carter and spoke for over an hour about our experiences and friends at Marshall. That event has forged an indelible bond on all of us affected by this tragic event. I read Les Hick's book and attended his book signing at Marshall's Homecoming in October as Craig had done 2 years earlier. We are all proud of the Nate Ruffin lounge that is part of the new Alumni center on the Marshall campus. There is also a bust of Nate and some of his memorabilia that has been donated by his wife Sharon to display there. As one who was on the Homegoing caravan, I was elated to hear that there had been recently installed a memorial at the Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to honor the four Marshal players (Joe Hood, Freddie Wilson, Robert Vanhorn and Larry Sanders) whose joint funeral service we had attended in 1970. Craig has done a great service to amplify this story in backdrop of the national attention the school has gotten with the success of the football program and the movie 'We are Marshall' in recent years.