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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2007

Bluffton's loss - and triumph

TOUGH times often bring out the best in people, as evidenced by the continuing outpouring of compassion for the Bluffton University community. The school, the team, and families need all the support they can get as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of the charter bus crash in Atlanta. Five teammates died and several other players and coaches were injured in March; the accident also took the lives of the bus driver and his wife.

The university has received unsolicited monetary gifts totaling $115,000, including $50,000 from Major League Baseball. Now, the university intends to utilize the gifts by building a memorial and improving the current ball field.

Two months after the horrific tragedy, the donations keep coming. Churches, sports teams, and students at 15 other colleges and universities have made donations for Bluffton's memorial to those who were lost. The school will honor all seven who died, and those on the bus who survived will be acknowledged on the memorial as well.

Bluffton also intends to use some of the funds to pay for various upgrades. There will be new dugouts at the school's baseball complex, which has been renamed the Bluffton University Memorial Field to commemorate the accident.

Despite the pain of their loss, the Bluffton baseball team determined that it would also recognize their fallen teammates by continuing to play its games. The team and the families of those killed and injured believe that's what the players who died would have wanted them to do.

Joe Garagiola, Jr., an executive with Major League Baseball, said as much when he noted how important it is to honor the whole team. "They could have so easily quit," he said about the team. But they didn't, a reflection of the students' courage and integrity.

"Kids who come after them will look at that memorial and they will know that people of character were on that field before them," said Mr. Garagiola, senior vice president of baseball operations.

When the Beavers open their 2008 baseball season, they will see a memorial telling the story of the March 2 crash.

The disaster is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. What's especially encouraging is to see the determination and maturity demonstrated by those who still mourn but play on.



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