Andre Williams' strength lifted OSU faithful through tragedy

By Berry Tramel Published: January 27, 2006
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STILLWATER - Five years. Seems like forever ago. Seems like yesterday.

Continuing coverage

Andre Williams thinks often of OSU's Fallen 10, the men who perished in snowy Colorado five years ago tonight. A plane crashed, a state mourned, a close-knit school drew even closer together.

Now half a decade has passed. The pain has dulled; the memories have not.

"Every day is different, Williams said. "Some days I think about it more than others.

Williams was a sophomore center in January 2001. Seemed like a promising player. Turns out, Williams had undiscovered talent. He was chosen to speak at the memorial service for the Fallen 10, in front of more than 13,000 mourners at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Williams' comforting eloquence soothed sorrow. He read a poem, "I Am Free. He talked of his friends. He finished by saying, "This isn't really good-bye. If we believe, we know this isn't good-bye. We'll see them in the morning.

We never saw Andre Williams the same again.

Williams now is three years past his OSU basketball career. He's been to Europe to play and now is back in Stillwater, finishing his degree and hosting a daily sports radio show on KOKB, 1580-AM.

As often as Williams thinks of the plane crash, he thinks of the days before, "about how much fun I had my freshman year, Williams said. He lived in Bennett Hall, Room 218-C. His suitemates were Nate Fleming, Room 218-A, and Daniel Lawson, Room 218-B. Fleming and Lawson were the two Cowboy players killed in the crash.

"First two people I ever met in college, Williams said. "They made my freshman year fun and memorable.

But other than co-pilot Bjorn Fahlstrom, Williams was close to all the victims. "I used to harass everybody on that plane.


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Remembrance ceremony

A fifth anniversary remembrance of the plane crash that killed 10 members of the Oklahoma State basketball family will be held at 4 p.m. today inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The ceremony, in the south lobby near the kneeling cowboy memorial, is for family and friends. Visitors are welcome, but seating will be limited.

Oklahoma State president David Schmidly, assistant athletic director for media relations Steve Buzzard and former OSU president James Halligan will speak at the 20-minute ceremony.

Quoting the fans

Today marks the fifth anniversary of a plane crash in Colorado that killed 10 men from Oklahoma State’s basketball family. OSU officials constructed a permanent tribute in the southwest corner of Gallagher-Iba Arena near Heritage Hall.

Featuring the words “We Will Remember”, a bronze statue of a kneeling cowboy is surrounded by 10 plaques, each with a photo and tribute written by family members. Listed below are comments from people who visited the memorial for the first time earlier this year:

GENE HOWCHINS, 35

Sales engineer from Atlanta, Ga., who attended the Texas A&M game with an OSU friend:

“I like the kneeling cowboy. It’s really nice Oklahoma State did something to show their gratitude. These 10 men (essentially) were on business for OSU. It’s sad. So many of them were so young, about my age. But not being from this part of the country I had no idea who was actually on that plane. It’s emotional when you read some of the things the family members wrote.”

LINDA POOLE, 59

1968 OSU graduate, who has lived in Phoenix for 17 years but is originally from Oklahoma City:

“This is my first basketball game since I was at Oklahoma State years ago. When the plane crashed five years ago it was heart wrenching even if you weren’t part of the OSU community at the time. (The memorial) is very appropriate, very tasteful. It obviously brings different things to mind for different people. For me, it’s very touching. I’m very proud of what they did.”

NEIL MOORE, 74

Broken Arrow resident:

“It’s real impressive. Reading about all the people, you were familiar with some of them like Bill Teegins, who did games on the radio. It’s a real impressive memorial. It’s emotional, touching to the heart. It’s good, very good, a nice tribute to those men who tragically lost their lives.”

MELISSA MARTIN, 21

Martin is from Stillwater and attends school at Washington University in St. Louis:

“I like the intimacy of it. I feel it’s very appropriate where it’s set away from everything but still welcomes you in to learn about this on your own. The family dedications were really touching. It’s subtle but filled with emotion.”

NORBERT GERBER, 61

Gerber was visiting Gallagher-Iba for the second time:

“It’s touching. To see these people and players on that wall, it’s fascinating to see something like this where they remember all 10 men. Things written by family members was a very nice touch.”

ED COOK, 60

A 1968 OSU graduate who lives in Perry:

“I lived in Piedmont the time of the crash. It’s a wonderful tribute. It’s really moving, especially the kneeling cowboy.”

SARAH HOLLE, 19

A sophomore biochemistry major who helped Kappa Kappa Gamma and Phi Delta Theta build a “We Will Remember” float for the homecoming parade:

“Our theme was to remember the 10, a memorial to the plane crash. We wanted to respect the 10 people who died. It was a little controversial. Some people thought it was too much. But it was very emotional. We saw a lot of people crying.”

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