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"Just Get It Right"
"People refer to ‘six degrees of separation,' but in Huntington it's more like one or two degrees,” says David Strathairn. "We met people everywhere who were connected in some way to these events, who may have lost a parent or a friend or knew someone who had been killed, and they were so forthcoming with their experiences and memories. There was a lot of sadness but moments of celebration too, and some excitement that this story, their story, was going to be told. It provided a kind of energy that we all felt.”

Dawson, who overcame some initial doubts to ultimately participate in bringing "We Are Marshall” to the screen, revealed this mix of emotions when facing the prospect of watching the completed film. "I'm really looking forward to it. But I think I'd better be by myself when I first watch it through; my emotions are still pretty strong.”

Many of those directly affected by the crash still live in Huntington and even now, more than three decades later, the impact and the aftermath of that night remain crystal clear. It's a memory they have protected a long time. As Matthew Fox observes, "When a community endures this kind of tragedy, along with the grief and pain people feel, I think there's a sense of ownership that develops around it and a concern about how outsiders might perceive it. That may have been somewhat of the reaction when Lengyel first arrived with his optimism and energy, and it would be the same when word got out that a movie was being made.” The filmmakers took an honest, sensitive and collaborative approach.

"When you find out who these people are and you understand how they endured and recovered, why in the world would you not want their cooperation and support, and their blessing?,” asks Iwanyk. "We didn't want to let them down.”

Iwanyk and McG met with Jack Lengyel and Red Dawson, and interviewed family members and former school administrators, making their presence known on campus and around town well ahead of production. They invited university representatives, plus Lengyel and other key participants, to preview the script prior to shooting.

"They didn't need our permission to make this movie, but they wanted it,” confirms Dr. H. Keith Spears, a former Marshall student and contemporary of classmates lost in the crash. Now VP for Communications and Marketing at the University, he worked closely with Iwanyk and McG to coordinate production on campus. "People were in favor of having a movie made but their only concern was that ‘they just get it right.' We had three essential parameters: first, honor those who died; second, respect the people of Huntington and the state of West Virginia; and third, help us guard the integrity of the university. Marshall was a great institution prior to the plane crash and it was a great institution after. It is not ‘the university of the plane crash.'”

"It's a subject that still touches the heart of this community,” adds Huntington native Keith Morehouse, who was nine years old when he lost his father Gene, the radio announcer who called all the Thundering Herd games and was on the plane with the team that night. Morehouse followed in his father's footsteps, entering the field of broadcasting, and has called Thundering Herd football and basketball games on television while serving as sports anchor for the local NBC television affiliate. He met his future wife, Deb Hagley, while the two attended Marshall University. During their courtship, Morehouse recognized her surname as that of team doctor Ray Hagley, who died on the plane with his wife, Shirley.

"After our initial conversations it was obvious to us that the filmmakers wanted the same things we did. They were serious,” says Spears. "Jamie's script was on target and it portrayed our story in a manner that I think anyone who knows this legacy could recognize and appreciat

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