<i> Published Nov. 12, 2000</i>
HUNTINGTON -- For a while they were so quiet, totally unlike Marshall University football fans.
They listened politely to the speeches, and then watched with anticipation as the green cover came off the "We Are Marshall Memorial Bronze."
And then, they erupted. Wild applause. Whistles. Cheers.
"I'm speechless," Carol Palmer said Saturday, her eyes glued to the bronze. "It just fills you with such a feeling."
Thousands of Marshall fans gathered in the west parking lot of Marshall Stadium 90 minutes before the Thundering Herd whipped Miami (Ohio), 51-31, to witness the unveiling of the bronze.
The 17-by-23-foot statue, a gift to the university from Marshall fans, and the idea of John and Ann Krieger of Huntington, is a monument to the 75 people who died in the 1970 MU plane crash.
"Perfect," Ann Krieger said after the ceremony.
The huge crowd included many former Thundering Herd players and current supporters living nearby and far away.
Tony Barile, who now lives in Fairfax, Va., was a senior on the 1970 team. He missed the plane trip to East Carolina after suffering a lacerated kidney in practice two weeks earlier.
"Oh, it's wonderful," Barile said of the sculpture. "It's something that needed to be done a long time ago. It establishes who we really are. We've been put down for so long. Now, we're up there."
Marshall Coach Bobby Pruett said he was thrilled and honored to participate in the ceremony, even with the kickoff to the biggest game of the season just minutes away.
"This is truly a wonderful piece of work," Pruett said. "It's a wonderful, beautiful, loving idea."
Pruett called Marshall's rise from the ashes of the crash to national prominence "truly God's miracle."
The crowd attending the ceremony filled much of the parking lot. It began gathering in the area of the unveiling early, spurred by the peaceful sounds of MU grad Tom Palmer's bagpipes.
When it ended, many moved in to get a close-up look at the statue mounted on a new brick wall. It was created by artist Burl Jones of Sissonville, W.Va., and cost about $150,000.
Many took pictures and videos while others simply gazed at the piece of work for several minutes after the ceremony.
"It's beautiful," said Edith Frasure, a member of the Herd Sideliners, a booster group for the team. "It will always make people remember."
"It's very appropriate," said her friend, Doris Akers.
The spirit of the ceremony carried into the game as noisy Herd fans packed into the stadium on a cold, clear night.
"I'm excited and thrilled about the opportunity we have tonight as a football team," Pruett told the crowd. "And, I'm excited and thrilled about this sculpture."
Bart Andrews, a member of the bronze committee which raised funds for the project for more than a year, said people from all over the country sent in donations.
"I'm pleased they understand what it's all about," Andrews said.
Marshall President Dan Angel likes the name of the bronze -- "We Are Marshall."
"To me it says, 'We are Marshall, still,' " Angel said. "We were then, are now and always will be."
WSAZ-3 sports director Keith Morehouse, whose father, Gene, died in the crash, said he's often reminded to "never take anything for granted."
"When you cheer," he softly asked the crowd, "give a little extra cheer for the team that never made it home."