COLUMN: How far we’ve come isn’t an excuse to forget

Shannon Stowers, Assistant Sports Editor

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Memorial Fountain sits at the heart of Marshall University’s campus. After all, it represents the 75 lives that were the heartbeat of not only this school, but also this city.

The water that runs through that fountain will cease today, as it does every year on this date. And still, 42 years after it was unveiled, it is a reminder of the legacy we must strive to carry on.

In 1859, George Eliot wrote “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”

Saturday, thousands of people will cheer on a Thundering Herd football team that will be wearing the number 75 on the side of its helmets. This, of course, is in honor of the 75 lost sons and daughters of Marshall.

It’s not a tradition or history that any school chooses, but it’s ours. We embraced and overcame it, but we should not and will not ever forget it.

If you take a walk from one end of campus to the other, it can be a reminder that when faced with seemingly insurmountable loss and grief, you can move forward. And that’s exactly what this school and this city did.

Following over a decade of rebuilding and just as much losing, the Herd became one of the most successful teams in college football.

Just 22 years after losing everything, the Herd won it all, claiming the first of its two Division I-AA national championships in 1992.

In the 44 years since the crash, Marshall has built the Cam Henderson Center and Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Not to mention the recent Vision Campaign that saw a new soccer stadium, indoor practice facility, academic support center and sports medicine center built.

If only those 75 could see what Marshall is today. If only they could sit in the stands and cheer on this Herd football team as it embarks on its final three regular season games of an undefeated season. I think they’d be proud of what Marshall has become.

I, nor any other student, knows what it’s like to experience that type of tragedy firsthand. Most of us don’t have any direct connection to the crash at all, but being a student, athlete or faculty member at Marshall, we get it. We feel that heartbeat. It’s what makes us look at that fountain every time we walk by. It’s what gives us goosebumps when we hear 30,000 people chanting “We Are Marshall.”

When that water turns off today, it is our responsibility as sons and daughters of Marshall to keep that heartbeat going.

Shannon Stowers can be