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School dedicates memorial to crash victims

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Relatives and friends of 10 men killed in a plane crash last year shared tears and hugs Saturday during Oklahoma State University's dedication of a memorial to the victims.

The memorial, located in the southwest lobby of Gallagher-Iba Arena, features a black granite wall with likenesses of each of the victims and inscriptions chosen by family members. The centerpiece of the memorial is a statue of a cowboy, kneeling in remembrance of lost friends.

``We've said we'll never forget, and this sculpture I hope says it as loudly as any words,'' said Harry Birdwell, university vice president.

Both pilots, two players and six other men associated with the university were killed Jan. 27, 2001, when their plane crashed in a field near Strasburg, Colo. A memorial to the victims was dedicated at the site in August.

Many of the 80 family members wept as the memorial wall was unveiled and a soloist sang a song called ``Where There is Love.''

University President James Halligan said the memorial is ``an integral part'' of a promise made by the school to always remember the victims.

``We will keep them in our hearts,'' he said. ``Let us all collectively commit to that, with our last breaths. We will keep them in our hearts.''

The memorial is located in a high-traffic area of the arena _ near the entrance to the athletic department's academic center and the entrance to the arena's hall of fame.

``The reason we chose this place is because many, many generations of students will pass in front of the memorial, as well as the many thousands who'll visit Heritage Hall,'' Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips told those gathered.

``We just felt this was an opportunity as people pass by to have an opportunity to stop and reflect on the 10 wonderful people we have lost and their impact on our lives.''

The statue, sculpted by Oklahoma artist Harold Holden and titled ``We Will Remember,'' was unveiled by relatives of five victims _ the grandmother of basketball publicist Will Hancock, the mother of player Nate Fleming, the brother of student assistant Jared Weiberg, the daughter of trainer Brian Luinstra and the widow of radio play-by-play announcer Bill Teegins.

Also killed were pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom, player Dan Lawson, radio engineer Kendall Durfey and director of basketball operations Pat Noyes.

``I think they did a wonderful job,'' said Zane Fleming, father of Nate. ``It's really difficult to see your son's face on a wall in granite, but this was not as difficult as the Colorado memorial was.

``Harold Holden's statue is spectacular. It's a beautiful spot to remember all 10 of these men.''

Hancock's father, Bill Hancock, also said he thought the memorial was well done.

``We want everybody to remember,'' he said. ``As strange as it sounds, there's sometimes I wonder if anyone will remember.''

The ceremony also included introductions of people who traveled from Colorado, including officials from the sheriff's department in Adams County, the Strasburg Fire and Rescue service and the owners of the land where the plane went down.

Halligan choked up briefly as he recounted a recent conversation with a reporter who asked whether anything good had come from the crash.

``I told him it's hard for me to imagine, but I have to say the people of Strasburg are just what this country is about,'' Halligan said. ``They are just wonderful.''

A final report on the cause of the crash is expected this spring from the National Transportation Safety Board.
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