Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What were the author's reasons for writing a book about the Marshall plane crash?

"Since you quit playing football the year before the crash, what was your motivation for writing the book? Was it based on guilt for not being on the team? Or, was it more about dealing with personal pain and loss?"

Thundering Herd safety Craig T. Greenlee during Media Day 1969.
(Photo courtesy of the Herald-Dispatch)

Author’s Note: It was six years ago that my memoir about the crash was launched. Not long after that, I was approached by a reader who asked some intriguing questions. Gotta admit that when I read over the questions, it actually caused me to pause for a few minutes. I knew right then that I didn't have a definitive answer. But after giving this some serious thought, I arrived at a few conclusions. So, here's my take on the questions. 

It was my choice to walk away from the game at the end of the 1969 season -- the 100th year of college football in America. As a result, I was not a member of the Marshall team in 1970.  And I never went through any form of withdrawal. 

Truth be told, I thoroughly enjoyed my life as a “regular” student.  Even though I had played football since the time of my single-digit birthdays, there was never a time when I wondered if I made the right decision.        

Never felt the need to feel guilty

As strange as it may sound, I never had any guilt feelings about not being on the Marshall plane that crashed on the night of November 14, 1970. I made a clean break from football when I left the team at the end of my sophomore year. 

Once I walked away, there was no second-guessing, no regrets about me no longer being a college jock. I never thought about putting the pads on again.

When you play a team sport like football, there’s a unique relationship that exists among the players. Through all the team meetings, wind sprints, tackling drills, scrimmages, games, team meals and study halls, you become part of something that's bigger than you as an individual.

Special bond among football players

This unique bond is strong because your teammates are the people you spend almost all of your time with – on and off the field. As a former teammate, there was still a deep connection. But I was no longer a part of the gridiron brotherhood, and that was OK by me.

In some ways, November Ever After was written from a perspective of personal pain. But that's not all. For me, writing helped me to start the process of sorting through some inner feelings that I had never really dealt with.

But as for getting closure, that remains to be seen. It may or may not ever happen, and I do understand that.

Self-reflections on what it was like back in the day

As I continue to write about the crash and its aftermath, I find myself reflecting a lot more on my college past than I ever have.

Do I ever wonder why I wasn’t on that plane nearly 47 years ago? The honest answer? Rarely, if ever.

There's still so much that I'm not sure about when it comes to making sense of a horrific tragedy that happened so long ago. But what I do know is this. 

Saved by God's grace

It’s only by God’s grace that I’m still here. In my mind, there's no question about it.
And who’s to say? Maybe, just maybe one of the reasons my life was spared was to write the memoir November Ever After.

If you knew more about the story behind my book, there's a good chance that you might agree with that. But that’s another discussion for another time and place.

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