HUNTINGTON - For the first time, a person born after the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 Thundering Herd teammates, coaches, staff, supporters and flight crew members has been chosen to speak at the annual memorial of the tragic accident.
Fisher Cross' mom, Courtney Proctor Cross, was just 6 years old when her parents, Herbert Dickerson Proctor and Josephine Courtney Phillips Proctor, perished aboard Southern Airways Flight 932 on Nov. 14, 1970.
At noon Tuesday, Nov. 14, Cross, a sports management senior at Marshall University, will take the stage as keynote speaker for the 47th Memorial Fountain Ceremony on Marshall's Huntington campus.
Cross said the honor will allow him to show the community and beyond how the devastation and inspiration continues to ripple through the Marshall family almost half a century later.
"This speech gives me the opportunity to show that they didn't just leave blank legacies," Cross said in a release. "These 75 families are affected top to bottom - parents, children and grandchildren. With each extended legacy, in my case my grandparents', there's an important task for each of us to keep the memory of those lost living on through each generation."
Cross, who spends time outside of the classroom as an athletic videographer for the Herd, said he can't imagine losing everyone he knows in the program "and not only that, but doctors, wives, aunts, uncles. No one knew they would be losing grandparents. I have people tell me all the time how I remind them of my grandparents, and I don't know anything about that."
He said his favorite aspect of Huntington is the feeling that the community is a family.
"We all rally around that stretch of campus going from Hal Greer to the football stadium," Cross said.
"Doc Holliday says it all the time, and it's one of my favorite things I've ever heard any coach say, is that there's no place in America, no program in America, that means more to its community and its fan base and its university than Marshall University," Cross said. "We're all one, and we're all together, and we're all fighting for the betterment of this place and obviously rooting every day for another win from the Herd because we all know that there's nothing more that those 75 souls would love more than another win for the Thundering Herd. That's what they were on that plane for and that's what they lived for."
The Marshall community honors the fallen 75 each year with a ceremony at the Memorial Student Center fountain. The fountain is turned off for the winter during a moment of silence. Former speakers include Young Thundering Herd members, family members of the 75 and former students.
"I'm honored to serve as the keynote speaker for such an important event," Cross said.