It’s about more than just football. It’s more than just a fountain. Forty-nine years ago, Marshall University suffered a loss that shook us to our core when 75 members of our family perished in the deadliest sports-related tragedy to date. The crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 forever changed our university.
Each year, hundreds of students, community members and others impacted by the tragedy gather around the Memorial Fountain for a ceremony and the symbolic shutting off of the fountain. We could have honored those 75 precious lives for a few years or even a few decades and moved on, but we continue to remember, because it’s the right thing to do and because, for us, it means so much more than a ceremony. Many younger generations may wonder why we continue to remember and conduct a ceremony year after year— the answer, though, is simple. It’s not only about remembering a tragedy, it’s a celebration of family, of life and of Marshall’s rise from the ashes.
It was more than just our football team who lost their lives; it was husbands, mothers, brothers. It was an entire flight crew. They lived and worked at Marshall and in Huntington. They touched the lives of others throughout our community, campus and the country. Although the pain of this loss will never truly subside, we can continue to honor them, not only on Nov. 14 of each year, but each day.
The Fountain Ceremony is a somber dedication to those we’ve lost, but it also is a reminder of the hope, love and community that will always live on. Watching the water in our Memorial Fountain run dry represents that dark day, and in the spring, when the water flows once more, it is a representation of life beginning anew and of hope.
Current Marshall students cannot comprehend experiencing the aftermath of the crash. We cannot picture an empty, quiet campus, nor can we imagine the tears and heavyheartedness that came with the tragedy. The Huntington and Marshall communities suffered, and they suffered greatly.
We cannot help but wonder, how would we react if this happened today? What would we do, and how would we come together and honor those we lost?
We cannot treat the tragedy as simply something that happened in the past. We also cannot leave it in the past, or else we’d let the memories of those who died slip away. If we keep it alive, we honor them, and we can heal. Let’s not forget that this was less than 50 years ago. Many of those who were directly affected are still with us today.
We need to pay our respect. We would want others’ respect and compassion if the tables were turned.
If you are unable to attend this year’s Fountain Ceremony, which is Nov. 14 at 12 p.m., at least take some time to stop and remember.
For now, never forget that we are Marshall. We are.