This special tradition brings the entire community of Huntington together once every year
On November 14, 1970, a flight carrying the Marshall University football team, staff, boosters and flight crew tragically crashed just before landing at Huntington Tri-State Airport. All 75 people on board were killed, and it is still recognized as the worst sports related air tragedy in U.S. history.
The city of Huntington and the surrounding community were devastated, and it was unclear if Marshall would ever field another football team after such a monumental tragedy. The university persevered through the adversity, and with the help of newly named head coach Jack Lengyel, assistant coach Red Dawson and many others, Marshall returned to the gridiron for the 1971 season.
Just as it was portrayed in the 2006 film We Are Marshall, the return to football was not an easy one. Marshall only won two games that season, but the school’s resiliency and spirit carried it through tragedy and hardship. Marshall struggled for many years, but won two Division II National Championships in the 1990s and has regained national relevancy in recent years – winning seven bowl games since 2009.
In honor of the 75 lives lost in 1970, Marshall erected a memorial fountain at its Student Center on Nov. 12, 1972. Each year on November 14, hundreds of people gather around the fountain to honor those lost in the crash, and there is a moment of silence as the water in the fountain is stopped, not to be turned back on until spring. This event has become one of the most important traditions at Marshall University and is a yearly reminder of the resiliency the community showed during its darkest days. The number 75 will forever be significant for the Thundering Herd. In 2013, Marshall played an away game on Nov. 14 for the first time since the plane crash occurred. Each player donned the number 75 on the sides of their helmets, and the team has done this several times since.
If you ever find yourself in Huntington, make a visit to Marshall’s historic campus and see the memorial fountain for yourself. If you’re lucky enough to attend a ceremony on Nov. 14, you’ll have the opportunity to witness one of the most unique and heartfelt traditions in college sports. Just as the memorial says, they shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever.
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This post was last updated on July 31, 2020