HUNTINGTON - Ten years ago George W. Bush was the president of the United States, Twitter was launched, and filming began on a movie in Huntington.

Specifically, the film was "We Are Marshall," and the first date of filming was April 3, 2006, 10 years ago to the day.

The biggest party in Huntington in 2006 had plenty to do with one of Huntington's favorite pastimes - Marshall University football - but all eyes and ears were focused on the key players for the film.

They included stars Matthew McConaughey, who was People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" at the time, Matthew Fox, January Jones, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kate Mara, David Strathairn, Anthony Mackie and Ian McShane.

But it wasn't the tailgates or a rival team that kept the city abuzz that spring.

Among those eyes and ears focused on filming were those of Eric Fossell, who was the Marshall University beat writer for The Herald-Dispatch at the time.

The initial announcement that a movie was to be made about the 1970 Marshall plane crash and the rebuilding of the university's football program was met with skepticism, Fossell said, so when film crew and cast members began trickling into the Tri-State during the first weeks of the year to set up shop, things got real.

On March 1, 2006, "We Are Marshall" director McG and Warner Bros. producer Basil Iwanyk made a visit to the Cam Henderson Center for a Marshall men's basketball game, where they were met with a display of Thundering Herd spirit Fossell described as "stellar."

"That's when it actually sunk in that this was really going to happen," Fossell said. "I remember this sense of excitement. It was infectious, really."

"The filmmakers really treated the story with a lot of reverence because they knew what a close nerve it hit on in this community," Fossell said. "They were very respectful of that. ... I can't think of a negative thing about the whole experience. I think the community responded in the same way. They were excited people were going to tell this story that meant so much to them."

That infectious excitement lasted in Huntington throughout the roughly month-long filming process in Huntington, before production moved to Georgia in the early summer.

The film went on to gross $65 million after it was released Dec. 22, 2006, following a "green carpet" premiere Dec. 12, 2006, at the Keith-Albee Theatre.

MORE ONLINE

An in-depth, multimedia look at the 1970 Marshall tragedy and the film based on that story is available online at www.herald-dispatch.com. The site includes:

>> Original coverage: Actual newspaper pages, stories and photos from November 1970.

>> "We Are Marshall": Stories, photos, graphics and videos on the Warner Brothers movie production.

>> Remembrances: Stories, interviews and video covering a wide range of personal recollections about the tragedy.

Look for a link with this story online or check under the Sports navigation bar.

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