Filling an unfillable gap: Former professor recounts days after the crash

Britanie Morgan, Reporter


Forty-four years ago George Arnold was attending a drive-in movie with his future wife when a carhop told him the tragic news. The flight carrying several of his friends and students had crashed. Arnold said he can still remember driving to his parent’s home on that rainy day.

“At those moments everyone remembers where they were,” Arnold said. “It was one of those bone-chilling, grayish, rainy days. We drove to my parents’ home, and before I could make it inside, they met me to talk about what had happened.”

After arriving back in Huntington, Arnold said everyone was just indescribably sad. Businesses closed and had their doors covered with black crepe paper.

“To really understand it you had to have been there at the time,” Arnold said. “Everyone in town was deeply affected, whether they liked football or not.”

Arnold was in his third year as a journalism professor at Marshall University. He and Ralph Turner taught the editing and reporting class that produced The Parthenon. At first classes were scheduled to continue, however Arnold said once people started to see how empty the classrooms felt, classes were canceled for the week following the crash.

“People walked in and saw the empty seats and realized the students who were missing,” Arnold said. “Teachers were crying, students were crying, they had to cancel classes.”

The students in the School of Journalism did not go home though. Arnold said the students explained to W. Page Pitt how important it was for them to produce a special edition of The Parthenon to honor those lost.

“Our students refused to go home,” Arnold said. “They were driven to do something.”

It took the students a few days to produce what would be one of the longest and most unique papers for Marshall. They opened the paper to everyone on campus and many non-journalism students submitted poetry and other forms of art to show their respects for those lost. Arnold said it was the only edition in his 36 years that faculty contributed stories as well.

“It’s a wonderful edition that  we are still proud of today,” Arnold said.

Arnold said this edition was a way for the students to grieve the loss of so many friends and community members during a tragedy that people could hardly talk about.

“We worked with a purpose,” Arnold said. “I think they worked their grief out with that edition.”

Pitt sent a copy of the special edition to every journalism school in the country. Arnold said that edition of The Parthenon is still one of his favorites.

“It’s one of the most important moments of my life as faculty,” Arnold said.

Arnold also supplied the photos for the Monday edition of the Herald Dispatch that followed the crash.

Britanie Morgan can be contacted at morgan230@