HUNTINGTON — As Marshall defensive end Owen Porter sat down for his interview with media members this week, the former Spring Valley standout didn’t need to say anything to announce the importance of the week.
The hat that he wore for the Zoom meeting said it all — a black hat with green numerals that said “75” on the front and a roaming buffalo logo on the side.
Growing up in the Spring Valley area, Porter needed no reminders of what happened. It was there as a daily reminder.
“I live probably 10 minutes from the plane crash — just on the other end of [Route] 75,” Porter said. “It was something that’s always been there. You pass it almost every day.”
Porter has gone from growing up on Route 75 to representing the “75” for the Herd this weekend.
It was a decision largely based on enabling his family to see him play close to home.
Family has always been at the center of Porter’s being, and as he reflected on his family, several stories came to light about his family’s memories stemming from the crash.
For the Porters, the Nov. 14, 1970, crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 into the hillside upon re-entry to Tri-State Airport from Marshall’s 17-14 loss to East Carolina was close to home in every sense of the phrase.
“Where the crash site is, you come down that little hill and there’s a little four-way intersection,” Porter explained. “You keep going and there’s a little white brick house that sits right to the left of Berry Saw and Mower. My mom and them lived there when the plane crash happened. It’s literally like a quarter of a mile or something from the house.”
Porter also recalled his grandmother’s explanation of the events that day.
“It literally shook their entire house — like, knocked a bunch of stuff down,” Porter said. “My grandma always talks about it knocked over a big bookshelf in their house.”
Porter also recalled memories with his grandfather involving the commemoration of that crash.
“One of the first games I actually came here with my grandpa was one of the ‘75’ games — at least one of the ones I can remember,” Porter said. “It’s a big thing around the community.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that Porter continued his career with the Herd, given the closeness of his family and the ties to the story here locally.
As Porter explained, though, the closeness of Marshall University’s football program to the tragedy has not diminished 50 years later.
For Porter, those feelings are as strong as they’ve ever been — especially as he gets set to take the field against Middle Tennessee at noon on Saturday.
“It’s just what’s in the air the week of ‘75’ week,” Porter said. “You have to be on the team to experience it, but there’s just something working with us that everybody’s just got that little extra bit for motivation or grit to get through the week.
“We’re just ready to roll by the time Saturday comes and we ain’t going to lose.”