Friday, November 13, 2015

Part III: Author has weird kind of flashback

The Fountain of Names is a lasting tribute, which was produced by

Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series about the 1970 Marshall University plane crash. On a dreadful night nearly 45 years ago, the Thundering Herd's plane crashed on its return trip from a road game at East Carolina. Everyone on board – 75 people in all – lost their lives. In today's entry, sports journalist Craig T. Greenlee shares his thoughts. Greenlee played safety for the Thundering Herd, but decided to hang up his pads and cleats a year before the crash. As a former teammate, he knew most of the players who died. Four years ago, he authored “November Ever After,” a memoir which paints a different picture from what most folks know about the tragedy through previously published books, news articles, documentaries and the movie “We Are Marshall.”

Former Herd safety Craig T. Greenlee
A few decades have passed since I played college football at Marshall. And for reasons that I still haven't quite figured out, I always pay close attention to the calendar at this time of year. When October ends and November begins, I always check to see what day the 14th falls on, which is the date of the crash.

Maybe it's something that's hidden deep in my psyche which causes this heightened sense of awareness. A few days ago, I had a flashback of sorts about the night that the Herd's plane crashed into the side of a hill and exploded. Ironically, this all happened unexpectedly, just like the night of the crash.

A few days ago, I attended some youth football state championship games and was on the sidelines taking pictures for a story I was working on. The weather was far from ideal. The day was dark and overcast and it rained off and on for at least four hours. The weather conditions on the day of the crash were similar.

The stadium where the games were being played, was located close to a big-city airport. Every 5-to-10 minutes, a jet would emerge from the clouds as it started its descent to the runway. For no reason that I was aware of at that time, I kept watching the planes.

That's when it hit me.

I remember a sequence from the documentary “Ashes to Glory.” In this segment, folks who lived in the Kenova neighborhood close to the Tri-State Airport where the crash occurred, were interviewed. They talked about how the plane seemed to be coming in at too low of an altitude. These folks were vivid in their recollections. They said they could see the lights on inside the plane just seconds before the crash.

Every time I looked up into the sky at one of those jets that day, I was able to visualize – to some degree – what people in that Kenova neighborhood saw on a rainy, foggy night in November 1970. It's almost as if I could peek into the plane's windows and see some of the passengers.

Ironically, I had this flashback on last Saturday (November 7), which just happened to be one week before the 45th anniversary of the tragedy. And this year – 2015 – the days and dates are the same as they were in 1970. Marshall's plane went down on a Saturday night. This year's anniversary is on a Saturday.

This reminds me of the last chapter in my memoir, which pertains to having memories of events that happened so long ago. The title of that chapter?

"It's Always With You."

Craig T. Greenlee