OSU remembers 10 men who died
STILLWATER, Okla. -- In the scrawled handwriting of a 9-year-old, Andrea Hancock expressed what so many people around Oklahoma State University were thinking Wednesday.
"I miss you daddy," read the card attached to a bouquet of a half-dozen pink roses. The flowers were set by the picture of her father, team publicist Will Hancock, at a memorial to 10 men associated with Oklahoma State's basketball program who died in a plane crash nine years ago while returning from a game in Colorado.
Wreaths and flowers covered the memorial inside the Gallagher-Iba Arena's lobby, as has been the case each Jan. 27 since the crash. One wreath had a ribbon that said "Forever Cowboys." Another read simply "Nate," in honor of player Nate Fleming.
A lot has changed at Oklahoma State since the crash -- there have been two school presidents and two basketball coaches -- but the university has remained true to its pledge to remember the dead. Visitors, including current players and coaches, stopped by the memorial in the hours before the Cowboys beat Texas A&M 76-69.
"We like to consider ourselves a family, those of us with orange in our blood," said Jim Perry, Hancock's uncle, "and this is one of those significant family moments as far as we're concerned."
After the Colorado game, on Jan. 27, 2001, the plane had taken off from Jefferson County Airport outside Boulder. It crashed a short time later about 40 miles east of Denver, in a snow-covered pasture near the town of Strasburg.
Killed in the crash were Fleming and teammate Daniel Lawson, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes, Hancock, trainer Brian Luinstra, manager Jared Weiberg, play-by-play announcer Bill Teegins, radio engineer Kendall Durfey, and pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom.
The Cowboys' game against Texas A&M marked only the second time since the crash that the team played on the anniversary date. As in recent years, the university was low-key in commemorating the anniversary.
At 6:37 p.m. CT, the time the crash occurred, the university's Library Carillon tolled 10 times, as it has done each year since the crash. Those at Gallagher-Iba Arena observed a moment of silence before the game, and a few minutes later, the organizers of the annual "Remember The 10 Run" presented the race's proceeds of $20,000 to the university's counseling services.
During the presentation, Eddie Sutton, the Cowboys' coach at the time of the crash, appeared on the court that bears his name and received a loud ovation.
University officials, including David Bosserman, the vice president for administration, visited a memorial near the crash site in Colorado and laid a wreath there, as they have done each anniversary. They were joined by Colorado emergency workers who responded to the crash in 2001.
Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, an alumnus of the school, said this time of year remains difficult for the university.
"But I do think it's inspiring the way the [Oklahoma State] family pulls together to support the families of those that we lost," Hargis said.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford was in his first season as Eastern Kentucky's coach in 2001 when he heard of the crash. He said he has gotten to know family members of the victims -- and he knows he's now a caretaker of a key part of the basketball program's legacy.
"It was a devastating event," he said. "They're always going to be front and center stage here. They meant so much to so many people."
Inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, a banner listing the crash victims, the crash date and the phrase "We Remember" hangs from the rafters. The Cowboys, coming off a huge win at then-No. 10 Kansas State, drew an announced crowd of 11,328 Wednesday -- one that included Perry, who has season tickets.
"I'll look up there and see my nephew's name on that banner and I'm going to feel those vibrations," said Perry, who considers the arena "hallowed ground."
"To have Will's memorial be in hallowed ground is something I cannot put words to," he said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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