Bronze bell unveiled at Herd game
HUNTINGTON -- With the passion that Marshall University Thundering Herd fans have, it's not often they can all be quieted at the same time.
But the more than 25,000 who attended the home opener against Western Carolina on Saturday night hushed their cheering for a moment of silence during the second timeout of the second half for a special presentation.
During the timeout, a 500-pound bronze bell was rolled out onto the field. Surrounding it was 75 students carrying American flags, one for each of the victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash. The bell also was escorted by Ken and Sharon Ambrose, whose son, Dr. Paul Ambrose, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when the plane he was aboard hit the Pentagon. They then rang it for the first time.
Ambrose, who had been working at the national level to fight the obesity epidemic, was a local boy who attended medical school at Marshall. The bell has four etchings, including the Marshall Memorial at Spring Hill Cemetery, the Healing Field, the Veterans Memorial Arch and the Pentagon insignia with Ambrose's name. It will be placed in a bell tower to be constructed next to Ambrose's grave marker at Spring Hill Cemetery.
"The bell is beautiful," Sharon Ambrose said of the bell. "It's all part of remembering, and this is for remembering all those lost on 9/11 and the Marshall plane crash and the military."
Ken Ambrose went to Cincinnati to see the bronze poured and formed into the bell at The Verdin Company, then was present Friday when it was delivered. He said it was special to see the bell come to fruition, knowing where it will be placed and what it will stand for.
"The bell will last for centuries," he said. "It will be a symbolic reminder that will always be there."
The couple said they also struggle with the grief of the anniversary, as do tens of thousands of people who lost a loved one that day nearly 11 years ago. But each year, they graciously accept the spotlight of talking about their son because remembering him has spawned a local revolution for health care.
The Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, a growing bicycle and pedestrian trail system through Huntington, has some sections complete with work on the floodwall portion expected to start this fall. A portion of the trail will go through Spring Hill cemetery and past the bell tower.
And, on Sunday, Ritter Park will host the fourth annual Fit Fest, which includes a 5K, a 10K and activities for children. Both said it's through those initiatives that their son lives on.
"I think the story of Paul is indeed an influence," Ken Ambrose said. "You get emails and letters from people who read about him ... they see that and want to do good and improve their lives and well-being."
"You try to (reflect) on all that's happened to remember him," Sharon Ambrose added. "All the stuff Paul would have wanted to see. That is what he would have wanted and was all about."
The bell and tower cost a combined $105,000, Kevin Brady, director of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, said earlier this week. It is being paid for with funds raised through the sale of the Healing Field flags from last year -- $68,000 -- and what will be raised through the end of this week.
The Park District sold approximately 3,200 American flags last year. Each 3-by-5-foot flag is attached to an 8-foot-tall pole and includes a certificate. Flags that are purchased -- they cost $35 each -- are used in the Healing Field, but their owners can pick them up afterward.
Fifteen dollars from each flag sold will go back to the park district, which helps coordinate the event and covers the up-front cost of the flags. Another $15 will go toward the construction of a bell tower. The remaining $5 will go to either postage and shipping costs or to civic groups that want to sell flags on the park district's behalf.
Brady said it was important to unveil the bell to the community as a whole, and the football game provided a great avenue to do so. Plus, there are few people who haven't been touched by 9/11, the Marshall plane crash or having a loved one serve in the armed forces.
The Healing Field will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Tuesday, Sept. 11. Flags are now available for purchase and will remain on sale through the end of the Healing Field on Tuesday, Brady said.
For more information about purchasing flags, becoming an event sponsor or volunteering at the cemetery, call Tracey Knight at 304-696-5954 or go to www.healingfield.org/huntington12.