His speech during the memorial service inside Gallagher-Iba was as eloquent as it was heartbreaking.
“This isn't really goodbye,” he said at the end. “If we believe, we know this isn't goodbye. We'll see them in the morning.”
He put on a strong front.
“I was completely devastated,” he admitted. “I had lost the two people at that time who were closest to me.”
Williams roomed with Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming during his freshman year. They couldn't have come from more different circumstances — Williams had gone to prep school, Lawson was from Detroit and Fleming was a walk-on from Edmond — but they became fast friends in Bennett Hall, Room 218. They spent all their time together, joking around, playing video games, even having water balloon fights during holiday breaks.
Williams had been through numerous ups and downs before he arrived in Stillwater, but his first year at OSU was the steadiest time of his life. Lawson and Fleming were a big part of that.
Williams now had a tattoo on his back with a cross and the Nos. 3 and 11.
The numbers worn by Lawson and Fleming.
James Halligan, now an Oklahoma state senator, was the OSU president at the time of the plane crash. He kept his emotions in check in those weeks and months after the crash, even when the two families with young children asked him a heart-wrenching favor.
“Would you come and read to the children the storybooks that their fathers would read?”
Halligan went to the houses, sat in the places that those fathers had sat, did the voices that those fathers had done, put on the funny hats that those fathers had put on.
The children showed him exactly how it was done.
“I really thank God I was able to do it and not cry,” he said, his eyes moist.
Now, Halligan is quick to tear up while talking about those dark days and those lost lives. He has worn one of the orange ribbon pins in remembrance of them every day since the crash.
He intends to wear it forever.
“I have given instructions — it shall be on me in my coffin,” he said.
Halligan pursed his lips.
“We said we would never forget,” he said. “God willing, I will never forget.”