The news froze the hearts of Americans.
An entire football team, its coaches, staff and boosters, wiped out in an instant in the mountains of West Virginia.
The Marshall University team's plane, on its way home from a 17-14 loss at East Carolina College at Greenville, N.C., crashed in light rain and fog a mile-and-a-half from the Huntington, W.Va., airport, killing all 75 aboard.
The plane, a twin-jet DC-9 owned by Atlanta-based Southern Airways, first struck a hilltop short of the runway, then skidded into a valley and burst into flames.
On the Marshall campus today at Huntington, W.Va., an iron flower-shaped fountain is found near the university's student union building.
There are 75 steel petals to the flower, each dedicated to someone who died in the crash. Each Nov. 14, the anniversary of the crash, the fountain is turned off for the winter, during a memorial ceremony.
Marshall pulled together a team for the 1971 season and quickly achieved one of its most memorable victories. In its first home game that season, the Thundering Herd upset Xavier, 15-13, on the last play, touching off a subdued, yet emotional celebration.
One story emerged in the grieving aftermath of the crash. Richard Taglang, a Marshall player who didn't make the trip, had missed the team's flight to North Carolina because he was minutes late for the departure of the team bus. Four other injured Marshall players also didn't make the trip.
Six players' bodies could not be identified. They were buried in a common grave in Huntington's Spring Hill Cemetery, half a mile from the football stadium.
Also on this date: In 1966, Cassius Clay, in one of his most impressive performances to that time, stopped Cleveland Williams in the third round in Houston. . . . In 1951, Los Angeles boxer Art Aragon lost a lightweight title bout to Jimmy Carter at the Olympic Auditorium after going down from 147 pounds to 135. Said Aragon afterward: "It was awful. I was the first fighter in history who had to be carried into the ring. . . . In 1929, "Iron Man" Joe McGinnity, famed for pitching both games of back-to-back doubleheaders at the turn of the century and who won 31 and 35 games in 1903 and '04, died at 58.