When you are recruited to play college basketball these days, the university welcomes you into the family. Though we never called it that during early infancy of the women’s game, we knew our college team had our back. A loyalty to Illinois State University basketball remains imprinted in my soul. Even though I did not personally know the victims of the tragic plane crash outside of Bloomington, my heart mourned for the lives lost – an ISU men’s basketball Associate Head Coach, Torrey Ward, a Deputy Director of Athletics, Aaron Leetch, and alumni Terry Stralow ’74 (co-owner of Pub II in Normal), Andy Butler ’96, and Jason Jones, M.S. ’93; and former student Scott Bittner.
“All seven men who were on board the plane, including pilot Thomas Hileman, were “Redbird guys,” said Athletics Director Larry Lyons ’86.
How can I feel connected to a university of over 20,000 when I haven’t lived in the state or even the country for decades? The memories of the people at that place, where interstate 74, 59, and 39 intersect in the Corn Belt, left a lasting impression.
When I played in the late 70s, we had three women’s teams, a platoon of peeps to lean on in hard times. Coaches like Jill Hutchison, Linda Herman, and Melinda Fischer invested so much in me, not only as a player but also as a person, and Schnied (Kathy Schniedwind) taped me up for every battle in Horton Fieldhouse. Nor will I forget the teammates like Slate, Von, Char, Guppy, Apple, Woody and others or those who followed after me to leave their own mark like Bethie, Bos, and Vickie.
In addition to teammates, five friends called “the family” rented a townhouse together. We pulled all nighters to prepare for finals, wet our whistle at the ol’ Pub II watering hole and scarfed down Avanti’s pizzas.
Whenever I am back in the Chicago ‘burbs, we reunite. Our “cousins” another cohort of ISU alumni meet up annually. My ol’roomies from Dunn Barton Hall still wish me happy birthday every year.
Back then I had my own sorority – a gym full of sisters – including my own biological ones, also ISU grads. During my senior year my middle sister shared our house; my baby sister shared my Redbird locker.
When the news about that the fatal return flight from the Final Four celebration in Indianapolis reached Switzerland, I felt sick to my stomach.
After every tragedy we are reminded how fleeting life is. Our paths may only cross once, but the impact we have on others is everlasting.
In light of that, I wanted to give a shout out to my ISU family to thank you for your support, for keeping the ties across the miles, for having my back.
Everyone is vulnerable. Every. One. Every. Day. Always.
To those folks in the Bloomington-Normal area and the ISU community who grieve for their lost loved ones, I offer my deepest sympathy. It is not enough. No, I never met you, but I know where you come from and what you represent.
Your loss is a loss for all Redbirds.
We are family.
I’m sorry about your loss. It’s such a difficult thing. Oh, I feel so bad for their families and their student athletes who will feel this loss the most poignantly. Hugs to you.
Yes, it so tragic for the families and student and entire community. Thanks for reaching out and sending hugs.
It is such a terrible tragedy anytime something like this happens, but your close connection makes it even more painful. You may have been away for decades, Pat, but your alma mater stays in your heart forever. Sending prayers to you and the entire Illinois State community. The entire country shares your grief.
Thank you Helene. In a situation like this words fall short, but may the community find some solace in the outpouring of condolences.
Devastating tragedy to a college community. What a loving post!
Thank you Haralee. May the community spirit prevail in face of such tragic loss.
Well said, Pat! When I heard this news, I, too, was sickened. No, I didn’t go to ISU; I didn’t even know the folks who were killed. Yet, my heart aches for the loss to the school, their families and friends. Who knows how much any of these people could’ve accomplished, had they had more time? Good reminder, my friend — none of us knows when our time will be up. May they rest in peace.
I wondered how close you are living to this area, so I imagined that you would hear the news. As you said, the greatest tragedy of all is lives cut short of people who were doing so much good and contributing to the next generation in their work.
A truly devastating tragedy for all those involved, I’m so sorry.
Thank you for reaching out and sharing your concern.
Well said, Pat. Condolences goes out to all of the families.
Thanks, Clara. Hope you and yours weren’t in tornado territory.
I’m a little late as I’m playing catch-up, Pat but I wanted to let you know how much your words have touched me. I am so sorry to hear this tragic news. Your words are a poignant reminder of how precious life is and how much we should value each day we are alive. Yes, we are all vulnerable, Every day. RIP to all those who lost their lives. Thank you for this lovely eulogy.
Thanks, Kathy. I have missed hearing from you. I appreciate your kindness and support.