On Saturday, my father and I attended the memorial service for the victims of the 1970 WSU plane crash. It was the 40th anniversary. Hard to believe so much time has passed. Yet, not so hard to believe that the pain is still so vivid. The weight of that pain heavy upon the shoulders of the people attending. The families. The survivors. The members of our community. The chilly October air harsh against the backs of our necks as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder to pay our respects. To remember.
I was four-years-old when the Gold plane crashed and I admit for many years I would get the Wichita State and the Piatt Street plane crashes confused. As a child, I knew there’d been a horrible plane crash, killing many people, some were football players, some were in their homes. I knew these tragedies changed our community. Forever. But I tended to get the two mixed up.
My father took me to my first Shocker football game when I was in middle school. I don’t remember who they played or the date. I remember the silver stands filled with black and gold. The marching band. A grass-skirted WuShock. The crowd. And I remember the story he told me about that day in October and the 31 lives lost. I never confused the ’70 plane crash with any other from that moment forward.
As an alumna and an employee of WSU, the ’70 crash has taken on a whole other meaning for me. I work with memorials. New memorials. And as I work with families, I understand a hidden concern. A worry felt deep within. The pain of one day their loved one being forgotten. For those who’ve lost someone, it is something we carry on a daily basis. Don’t forget. We want to tell their stories. Show their pictures. Please, remember. Because if others forget, then what will keep us from forgetting. As it is, memories do fade over time, becoming fuzzy and discolored. Were we on the train heading into the city? Or was it…wait, no it was the El on our way to the Aragon ballroom…Remember her funny pink coat and how she loved chocolate…oh, was it pink? I don’t really remember if she liked chocolate…
These are the things that frighten us.
So I commend WSU in holding this annual memorial service. To help us all to remember. To never forget those 31 souls or the parents, spouses, and children whose lives were forever changed. And I vow each year to never forget. I will attend the service. I will educate new students. I will share the story. And my story. Together, we will remember. Together, we will never forget.