Cancelled flights kept Marching Mizzou at home

“Man, we should have been there.”

A game day experience is not quite complete without the fight song. At MU’s last football game against South Carolina, the team had to battle without its pep band.

On Friday, an FAA contract employee tried to commit suicide and set a fire that damaged an Illinois air traffic facility. Waves of flights at the Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports were cancelled, including the pep band’s connection between St. Louis and Columbia, South Carolina.

Senior Sam Roth, a cymbal player and section leader in the drumline, said he found out about the cancellation half an hour before the pep band was due to drive to St. Louis to catch its flight.

J. Fuller Lyon, assistant director of bands at MU, said he found out about the suicide attempt around 1 p.m. After searching the airline’s website, Lyon said he realized the band’s flight had been cancelled. He and the band’s travel coordinator searched for an alternative flight that they could book at the last minute.

“If it was one or two seats, we might have made it work, but not 55,” Lyon said.

Desperate, he tried to book a charter bus, but no company could put together the logistics in time to make a 13 hour, 869 mile bus route.

Lyon said he had to tell the band that it would not make it to MU’s game.

“I felt bad for the kids,” he said. “But on the bright side, I’m glad we found out before we left Columbia, so we weren’t stuck in St. Louis.”

Roth said he had been looking forward to travelling to South Carolina and the game, but enjoyed his wide-open weekend. He and other members of the band gathered Saturday night to watch the game.

“When the game was getting really intense and down to the wire, we were all thinking, ‘man, I should have been there,’” Lyon said.

He said he wonders if the band had been there if Mizzou would have had a better football game. Mizzou was trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter, but rallied to win 21-20.

“It’s important that when we go to away games we bring a part of that to away games,” Lyon said. “The band is part of Mizzou’s unifying force and to not be there to play the fight song and rally them when they were struggling is hard.”

Roth said that he won’t get another chance to travel to a football game with the band before he graduates, unless Mizzou makes it to a bowl game.

In his 20 years in SEC bands, Lyon said he’s missed an away game only once before, for 9/11. He said the MU band may need to reevaluate their transportation plans and have a contingency if disaster strikes.

“We need to look at having a bus on backup call for the future,” Lyon said. “But let’s just hope it never happens again.”

The band is “part of the Mizzou experience,” Roth said, and its presence is important at away games.

“It’s reassuring for the Mizzou fans when we travel to the games with them, and it’s reassuring for the band to see all of Mizzou’s fans there,” he said. “We have an awesome fan base, and it’s exhilarating for all of us to be there with the team.”

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