75 honored at 49th Memorial Fountain Ceremony

The Marshall University community remembered the 75 killed in the Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash today at the 49th Memorial Fountain Ceremony.

Speakers reflected on the tragedy before the annual shutting off of the Memorial Fountain’s water and the laying of 75 white roses, a tradition honoring each person killed in the crash.

“Quite simply, this is our story,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. “My feelings are the same as they were when I was a 13-year-old boy in 1970. I spent my days dreaming of coming to Marshall to play football and becoming a son of Marshall. Then came Nov. 14, 1970, and shock and confusion washed over me. Like all of us, I wondered, ‘Why?’”

Hamrick said while he will never forget the members of the community who died in the crash, he is proud of Marshall’s resilience in the wake of the loss.

“This is the greatest comeback story in the history of sports,” Hamrick said. “Look what we’ve done. We never gave up; we never quit. Everything we’ve done, everything we’ve accomplished, every game we’ve played, we’ve done it in the name of those 75 beautiful, wonderful people that we lost.”

Head Football Coach Doc Holliday said remembering the 75 is important to each and every one of his players.

“The day they step foot on campus, they know they are playing for something bigger than themselves,” Holliday said.

Friday, Nov. 15, Marshall will take on Louisiana Tech in the annual memorial game at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“We’ll have our black uniforms on, we’ll have the 75 on our helmets, we’ll have the names of every person who died 49 years ago on a green stripe right down the middle,” Holliday said. “We have one of the richest traditions of any football program in the country. We have won games, we have won championships, we have had success; other football programs can claim this, but no other football team has our story.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Matthew Ralsten III lost his parents, Murrill and Helen Ralsten, in the crash at the age of five, and said the Marshall community greatly impacted his life following the tragedy.

“On that cold, rainy night, this community lost 75 lives,” Ralsten said. “My memories now would forever be shaped by my new family, my friends and place: this place, filled with love, support and great fortune.”

While Ralsten has since moved out of the state and has resided in Georgia for 14 years, he said he will always feel a personal connection to the place he still considers home.

“My life continues to revolve around this state, this community and this university, despite no longer having a physical connection to Huntington,” Ralsten said. “I continue to be influenced by the memories of my parents, their past and involvement in this community.”

Marshall President Jerry Gilbert said next year’s Memorial Fountain Ceremony is in the planning stages.

“Next year will be the 50th anniversary, and we’re already starting to make some special plans for Nov. 14, 2020,” Gilbert said. “I hope everyone will return next year for this historic milestone.”

Gilbert said it is important to continue to honor those lost in the tragedy that has since shaped the spirit of the university.

“We continue to keep the memory alive, and we always will,” Gilbert said. “We continue to be strengthened by their lasting memory; we know the resilience of this university and this community has triumphed over loss.”

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].