Students’ perspective on the 1970 tragedy


Sadie Helmick

The last drops of water leaving the fountain during the Fountain Ceremony in 2017.

48 years after the worst collegiate sports-related air tragedy in U.S. history, students reflected on what being a part of the Herd means to them.

Several students at Marshall University said they think the 1970 plane crash carrying the Marshall football team, coaches and supporters deserves to be remembered.

“It’s important to understand our past and where we came from,” graduate student Katie Keefer said.

Some students said they feel it is important to memorialize the victims of the crash as a way to bond as a community and show respect to those families who were affected.

Devin Perkins, a freshman from Huntington, recalled his family telling him about their first-hand experiences of the tragedy.

“It was part of the community history I grew up with,” Perkins said. 

Perkins said he feels it is imperative to “keep history around” by talking about the 1970 plane crash.

“It’ll always be a part of us at Marshall,” he said. “It helped us grow.” 

That growth and perseverance is what created a sense of pride in students like sophomore Roman Bryson.

“I feel proud to be a student here,” Bryson said. 

Bryson said he admires the way the Marshall community was able to regrow.

“The fact that we were able to persevere through such a disaster is something to be proud of,” Bryson said.

For Tanner Goff, a junior from Hurricane, West Virginia, remembering those who died in the crash is a matter of respect.

“I still think it is very important that we memorialize these people because it was a part of Marshall history,” Goff said.  “I think it is respectful to the families and individuals affected by this tragedy.”

Although he has no first-hand ties to anyone who was personally affected by the plane crash, Ryosuke Sato, an international student from Japan, also said he feels honoring the 75 is a sign of respect.  Sato said he likes that Marshall has continued to have a football program that honors the 1970 team. 

There is no profit to forget what happened,” Sato said.  “It’s respectful to remember.”

Neither Sato nor Goff has ever been to the Memorial Fountain Ceremony, but they both said they hope to attend this year.  Sato said as an international student he and others do not know many details about the crash, but he hopes attending the ceremony this year will help him learn.  He also said he wants to learn more from local students from Huntington and their experiences having grown up remembering the event each year.

The annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony is attended each year by faculty, staff, students and members of the Herd community, but some students said they are concerned they will not be able to attend.  The university does not suspend or cancel classes for the event, despite some students saying they feel that is exactly what should happen.

“Classes should be canceled, and people should be encouraged to go to the ceremony,” Perkins said.  “Professors should give extra credit to those who go.”

Despite facing the rebuilding of a community and a football team, Marshall has remained supportive of memorializing those lost in the crash for the last 48 years.

“We will never forget. That is why we are Marshall,” Perkins said.

Meg Keller can be contacted at [email protected].