Annual Memorial Service to take place next Wednesday

Mo Lajterman lives in New Jersey and visits Marshall University maybe once every couple of years. Yet, he and all of the Lajtermans, including Mo’s brothers, Tito and Abe, have a long-distance relationship with Marshall that Mo describes with one word – family.

Mo Lajterman and  his brothers will return to Marshall on Wednesday, Nov. 14, for the annual memorial service celebrating the lives of the 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash, including the Lajtermans’ brother, Marcelo.

The service starts at noon on the Memorial Student Center plaza. The public is invited to attend the event, which is conducted by the Student Government Association.

This year’s visit will be different for Mo Lajterman. He won’t be in the memorial service audience; rather, he’ll be on the stage as the featured speaker.

“It was very shocking when I got the call from (Athletic Director) Mike Hamrick; I never expected it,” Lajterman said. “I’m very honored and very emotional about it, but I had to take a couple of days to think about it. But now, I’m looking forward to it.”

Lajterman and his brothers have made the nine-hour drive from New Jersey to Huntington a few times in recent years. They usually spend much of their time on the road talking about Marcelo.

“I’m a very emotional person,” said Mo, who was 17 when the plane went down. “I’m not a professional speaker. I try to speak from the heart. It was such a tragic accident and it still feels like it was yesterday. We still cry over it. But these trips to Huntington help. We feel really close to our brother when we make these trips.”

The trips didn’t happen for many years after the crash. In fact, Mo came to Huntington for the first time – by himself – in 2000 for the premiere of the documentary, “Ashes to Glory.”

“I didn’t know a soul,” he said. “Now, we feel like Marshall’s our home.”

Marcelo Lajterman was 19 years old when he died in the crash. He was a kicker for the Thundering Herd in 1970. Although it has been 42 years since the crash, the Lajterman family makes sure that Marcelo’s name lives on through the Marcelo Lajterman Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The Marshall University Foundation Inc. announced establishment of the scholarship in 2008. In 2010, members of the Lajterman family presented the foundation with a check for $23,000 to endow the scholarship. Marcelo wore number 23 on his Herd jersey.

The crash on Saturday, Nov. 14, 1970, occurred at about 7:47 p.m. when a DC-9 jetliner, returning Marshall from its football game at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., clipped some treetops just short of Tri-State Airport and went down. Victims included 36 Marshall football players, nine coaches and administrators, 25 fans and the crew of five.

“The Student Government Association is esteemed to have the privilege of organizing the annual Memorial Ceremony again this year,” said Student Body President Ray Harrell Jr. “My chief of staff and the planning committee have done an excellent job with this year’s program and we are hopeful that it will serve to honor the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families. I hope that members of the Marshall and Huntington communities will take an hour out of their day to join us for this special event.”

In addition to Lajterman and Harrell, others who will speak in the memorial service include  President  Stephen J. Kopp,  Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, Football Coach Doc Holliday and a representative from the Marshall Alumni Association.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito have been invited to attend and speak.

The service will conclude with the placing of the memorial wreath at the Memorial Fountain. The fountain will be silenced after the laying of the wreath and remain silent until next spring.


Photo: The photo of Marcelo Lajterman, one of the victims of the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash, was taken from Marshall’s 1970 football media guide. His brother, Mo Lajterman, will speak at the 2012 memorial service for victims of the crash.