Column: On the outside, looking in

Here we are again.

Another year has passed, another year that sons and daughters of Marshall had to live without a mother or father, a brother or sister, a loved one.

As a Marshall student, I am put in an interesting position heading into the 46th anniversary of the plane crash. I was not raised in West Virginia. I do not know anyone who lost a person or people in the crash, nor did I lose any family. Until November of last year, I did not even know I would be coming to Marshall. I am very much detached from the situation.

I am an outsider.

I grew up in Illinois with an MU alum mother who tried to explain the ordeal to me, but it fell on deaf ears. After all, I would never be coming to Marshall, so the crash did not affect me. Sure, the loss of life made me sad, but I did not understand the importance of the event or the profound impact it had on a university, a community and a state. Not only did I not understand it, but I did not bother to understand it.

Fast forward years later and here I am, attending the university I never thought I would, living in the town I could not have even pointed out on a map just a year ago.

I am now a son of Marshall.

Something happened in this past year. Call it an epiphany, call it whatever you please, but my eyes have been opened pretty wide. Those same people that are about to enter another year without their loved ones, I have had a chance to talk with some of them. I have heard the stories. I have seen the pain on their faces as they try to find the words, even some 46 years later.

I have learned what that event means to this city and this school.

In many ways, I am still detached from it all. At the same time, I am very much so attached to it, as well. As a Marshall student, it is a part of our history, our heritage. Those 75 people that perished helped pave the way for us as students and faculty.

Because of where I go to school, I will forever be linked to Dennis Blevins or Donald Booth.

I always tell my friends back home near St. Louis that to truly understand it all, you have to be a Marshall student. I still stand by that.

I think it is funny how things come full circle. Ask me a year ago and I probably would not be able to tell much about the crash.

I get it now, though. Come Monday, I will be right there, alongside all the others, mourning the loss of 75 people.

Jacob Griffith can be contacted at [email protected]