OSU pushes on one year after tragic plane crash

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Nearly a year later, the pain is still evident in Oklahoma State basketball players who lost teammates and friends in a plane crash.

Andre Williams says he doesn't break down and cry as he did many times in the weeks after the Jan. 27, 2001, crash in Colorado. But he thinks often of his roommate, Dan Lawson, and the other nine men killed.

"I just look back and see the good times I had," he said Monday. "You just look back and see all the good things and just let them outweigh the bad things."

There have been some bad things. For Williams, none was tougher than traveling to the crash site in August to take part in the university's dedication of a memorial to the victims. He was the only player who attended the ceremony in a field about 40 miles east of Denver.

"I just never pictured something like that happening," he said. "Then you get out there and see that there is really nothing out there -- just open land, no trees, no nothing. I don't know, I just felt they deserved more than that, that they shouldn't have went out like that. It was real hard, especially going out to where the plane actually hit.

"The closer I got to it, the heavier my heart felt. It was real hard, but it was something I needed to do."

In the days after the crash, coach Eddie Sutton said, he wondered whether the Cowboys would be able to finish the season. But they did finish, wound up winning 20 games and went to the NCAA tournament.

Nationally ranked

This year's team is 15-3 and ranked No. 11, although the Cowboys are reeling a bit after losing two in a row by wide margins, to Kansas at home and on the road against Texas Tech.

"We just played so poorly in the last two games, and there's no way that this (the anniversary) won't be on everybody's mind," Sutton said. "I think it's going to be a little more difficult for our coaching staff to make sure we can get these guys back on track."

Monday's gathering of Sutton, Williams, Fredrik Jonzen and Victor Williams was the only time this week that coaches and players would answer questions about the crash.

"I think it's good we're doing this," Sutton said. "I think everybody needs to understand those guys will never be forgotten. They were a special group of people.

"Why it happened, nobody knows. Accidents do happen. I know sometimes it's easy to get bitter and say 'Why did it happen to us?' But sometimes we don't have control over situations like that."

Victor Williams said he has wrestled with that question many times in the past year.

"I've just tried to take a spiritual approach to it, that those guys are in a better place than we are," he said.

In addition to Lawson, those killed in the crash were walk-on Nate Fleming, publicist Will Hancock, trainer Brian Luinstra, manager Jared Weiberg, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes, play-by-play announcer Bill Teegins, radio engineer Kendall Durfey, and pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom.

The Cowboys play two home games this week, against Nebraska on Wednesday and Colorado on Saturday. There will be a moment of silence at halftime of the Colorado game, but otherwise no public ceremonies are planned to commemorate the anniversary.

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