West Virginia February 03, 2018
The Tragic West Virginia Event That Inspired A Major Motion Picture
It is a moment in history that changed the city of Huntington forever. The Marshall plane crash left a school without a football team and a city without hope. But eventually, we rose above our despair and moved on. But we never forgot.
Then, in 2006, we got a movie about that day and how the city recovered from the tragedy. It was the time Hollywood came to West Virginia and immortalized the story of the loss and eventual recovery experienced by an entire city.
On November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, carrying the entire Marshall University football team, the coaches, and several citizens, crashed into a hillside just short of the Huntington Tri-State Airport. All 75 passengers lost their lives.
The crash was so severe that portions of the fuselage had been reduced to a powdery substance. A few thousand more feet and all the passengers would have landed safely on the tarmac. It is an event that left a deep scar on the families affected, and the city as a whole.
Then, in 2006, Hollywood came to Huntington to tell our story.
"We are Marshall" began filming in April 2006 in Huntington. The film, starring Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Kate Mara, Anthony Mackie, and Ian McShane, was directed by McG and released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Many of the locations in which the events took place filmed in similar or actual locations around Huntington.
It was not unusual to see evidence of the filming around town, including 1970's era vehicles parked outside the Joan C. Edwards Stadium. When a road was closed, it was often the result of filming, such as this scene shot at the Keith Albee Theater on Fourth Avenue in downtown Huntington - the same theater where the film premiered. With the exception of the game scenes, all the events in the film that occurred at Marshall University were actually filmed at Marshall. If you are or were a student at the school, you will recognize many of those locations immediately.
The fountain, dedicated to the 75 victims, still stands at Marshall's Memorial Plaza in front of the Memorial Student Center.
Every year, on the same day of the crash, the memorial ceremony is held at this location. The fountain stands as a monument to the fallen; those who are lost but never forgotten.
"We are Marshall" is like that fountain: it is a memorial of a period where time seemed to slow down and a wound was opened. That wound has healed, but the scar remains.
The movie tells the story of the crash and efforts to rebuild the football program against opposing odds, either by the NCAA or by certain residents of the city and the school. Eventually, a new team was formed, many of whom were freshmen that the NCAA generally does not allow to play college football. Although this a movie centered around a football team, "We are Marshall" is not specifically a sports movie. It is about a loss and the hope that one day, life will return to normal. It happens to families all the time, but rarely does it happen to entire cities.
Now, the whole country knows what happened here, and perhaps they can better understand what it means to rise from heartbreak and turn it into triumph. Perhaps, it can even help the grieved to heal just a little bit faster.
Do you have any personal memories of the plane crash? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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