I Peter 1:6,7 – In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In our weaknesses, Christ is made strong. In our sorrows, He is our comfort. The Christian life is not meant to be without problems, without trials. God promises when we go through difficulties, He will be with us. If we genuinely belong to Christ, even our trials will bring Him praise. And as we experience and remember conflicts in our own lives, we can share in another’s affliction with true understanding. It is not so much what happens to us that causes us to rejoice, but that through each difficulty in life we have learned to trust in Jesus.
* Transformer Study Bible
We Are Marshall: Triumph from Tragedy
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
- NEW YORK -- Standing proudly on the banks of the Ohio River is the small, tight knit community of Huntington, West Virginia, a town known primarily for two things, its steel mill and Marshall University. It is the type of place where the college and its football team go hand in hand to forge an indelible identity. For better or for worse, Huntington is blue collar ideals, football, and Marshall University, not necessarily in that order.
But it is also a town marked by tragedy, a community trying to overcome the shadows of grief that still hover more than 36 years later. For you see, Huntington and Marshall University experienced the worst disaster in the history of American sports.
On the evening of November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying Marshall’s football team, coaches, and key people from the community, was on its way home from a hard fought game in North Carolina. The plane never arrived. Less than one minute before landing, the plane crashed into the Appalachian Mountains, killing all 75 people aboard. Lost forever were players, coaches, family, and friends. Huntington would never be the same.
Based on the true events of this fateful night and its subsequent aftermath, “We Are Marshall”, a new major motion picture from Warner Bros., chronicles the inspiring events of how this small West Virginia town struggled to cope with such devastating loss and their efforts to restore their community.
Standing as the film’s centerpiece is the debate whether to suspend the school’s football program indefinitely. Is there a right or wrong amount of time to grieve? Should life just stop when something like this happens? Should people move on immediately despite the pain? These were controversial precepts for a town that considered football a way of life.
“The beautiful thing about this story is that these are decisions that aren’t for any of us to say what is wrong or what is right,” says Matthew McConaughey, the film’s star. “There were no good ideas or bad ideas. The one good idea that did come out of this was … just keep taking the field. Keep getting out of bed in the morning and put your shoes on.”
McConaughey plays Jack Lengyel, a young football coach who was brought in a few months after the tragedy to rebuild the football program virtually from scratch. An outsider’s mere presence in a town still reeling with such raw emotion would send many a coach scurrying to get away but not Lengyel. He simply saw it as an opportunity to help.
“Lengyel took one look at his wife, took one look at his kids and said, ‘Hey, it would really hurt if I lost them. Maybe I can go over to Marshall and help.’ And that was that,” says McG, the director of “We Are Marshall”. He wasn’t trying to be the president of the university. He wasn’t trying to climb the corporate ladder. He just thought he could help them.”
“He (Lengyel) did a lot of listening,” adds McConaughey. “Jack did a lot of learning. He came in with a plan as the coach but he did a lot of learning. He had to constantly keep tabs on the fact that he had to learn and then teach. Listen, learn, and then teach.”
Someone who wasn’t quite so sure he could help was Red Dawson, a Marshall assistant coach who missed the fateful flight to stay behind for a recruiting trip. Initially offered the head coaching job after the crash, Dawson turned it down out of respect for the dead. After all, he had promised the parents of 20 of the players killed that he would look after their sons. However, with much prodding Dawson agreed to help Lengyel for one year to restore the football program.
“I think the year he was there was ridiculously painful,” explains Matthew Fox, who plays Dawson in the film. “Literally, six months after the crash he was looking at kids wearing jerseys that in his mind belonged to someone else. He had a locker room full of people who were not supposed to be there. I think Red giving that year was almost sacrificial in some way.”
Despite their good intentions, there was often tension between Lengyel and Dawson over finding the best ways to overcome the sometimes overwhelming predicament they found themselves in.
“I think the tension had to do with grief and how to deal with grief,” says Fox, who also stars in the ABC series “Lost”. “Any time we lose somebody in our lives as an individual I think two things happen inside you. You have this feeling of ‘Can I let the memory of this person fade so I can move on?’ Or there is the other half of the argument in that you proceed by holding onto that grief as a responsibility to hold onto their memory.”
“They just didn’t know where to plant their foot,” adds McConaughey.
Ultimately, “We are Marshall” is not a film about football but a case study in how to overcome trials. It is about how to defy overwhelming odds and the realization that it didn’t really matter whether Marshall won or lost. All that mattered was that the community of Huntington, West Virginia was willing to swallow their grief and keep on living despite the pain.
“From the very beginning my mantra was this is not a football movie,” says “We Are Marshall” screenwriter Jamie Linden. “This happens to be the field they are playing on metaphorically speaking but there is also the resonance of overcoming tragedy which is applicable being that we are living in a post-9/11, a post-Hurricane Katrina, a post-tsunami world today.”
“We Are Marshall” opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, December 22nd.
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* Some information courtesy of Warner Bros.
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More articles by Chris Carpenter on CBN.com
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