The chartered bus, striped prominently with its bright green, stood empty, still and useless.
The night, befittingly, was miserable.
A chilly wind swept first a drizzle, then a steady rain and finally a few drops on the bus, parked in front of the operations building at Tri-State Airport.
Grimly but efficiently, airport personnel went about their work.
At first there was bewilderment at word of the crash. Then the terrible shock. Finally the incomprehensible grief that overshadows nearly everything when the "Why?" can't be answered.
Authorities called waiting relatives and friends into a room off the terminal lobby and later took families and relatives to the West Virginia Air National Guard Armory where a temporary morgue was set up in the hangar.
Strict security measures were imposed.
All incoming highway traffic was stopped. Those without official business were not allowed to turn off Walker Branch Road onto the airport road. Only law enforcement officers, National Guardsmen, relatives and others having official business were allowed to take the road leading from the terminal building to the Armory.
A coed wearing a white jacket with the green Marshall University lettering on back walked toward the bank of four pay phones which were all busy. She stopped, turned away, retraced her step and stopped against a pole. Red-eyed and weeping, she bit her fingers and waited her turn.
A few Marshall students wearing fraternity jackets hunched in their chairs while cradling their faces. One had tears streaming down his face.
On the walkway between the terminal and the gates, a cluster of people stood talking in hushed tones.
The tower building was a maze of activity, although traffic into the port was canceled.
One passerby ducked into the ground floor of the tower and flatly said, "Yes, I was over there. Bodies are stacked over there in one big heap, all charred. There can't be anyone alive."
Charles Dodrill, Airport Authority president, was busy in the operations building talking on a telephone. "No, there isn't anything official yet," he commented at 9:35 p.m. "Word of the casualties, of course, will have to come from Southern Airways," he answered.
Moments later, word came that state police said there were no survivors.
Outside, the rain picked up in tempo and the wind felt chillier, much chillier.
And there was the bus, idling after the driver became cold. Idling almost like a drum roll in slow motion.
Soon, the driver reappeared and asked if he were free to go. "An Army officer told me to stand by in case there were any survivors. I called the office and they said for me to shuttle survivors to the hospital," he explained.
"Well, in that case, you are free to go," he was told.
Silently, he turned and walked toward the bus.
The almost military cadence of the engine brought to mind the Marshall Fight Song.
There were no Sons of Marshall aboard when the green-striped bus pulled slowly away.
Nevertheless, there were truly Sons of Marshall. Gone, yes, but still Sons of Marshall.