STILLWATER, Okla. – The hurt never really goes away. It's always there, reappearing at an instant's notice.
The nightmares come flooding back as well. The guilt lessens somewhat, but deep down it still remains.
On Jan. 27, 2001, three airplanes carrying nearly three dozen members of Oklahoma State's basketball program left Jefferson County Airport near Boulder, Colo., on a snowy Saturday night bound for Stillwater.
One of the planes, a twin-engine Beech King Air 200, crashed on a snowy hillside near Denver. There were no survivors. A later investigation determined the cause of the crash was due to a mechanical failure.
What happened that cold Colorado night resulted in the darkest day in Oklahoma State history.
"That accident affected Oklahoma State like nothing else that had ever happened," former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said Wednesday night during a ceremony at halftime during OSU's game with Texas. "It changed our lives. And it really changed my life. Those 10 guys were special -- not a bad guy in the whole lot."
Kendall Durfey, 38, was a radio engineer for the Cowboy Network. Bjorn Fahlstrom, 30, sat in the co-pilot's seat. Nate Fleming, 20, was a freshman guard. Will Hancock, 31, was the media relations coordinator. Daniel Lawson, 21, was a junior guard. Brian Luinstra, 29, was a trainer. Denver Mills, 55, was the pilot. Pat Noyes, 27, was the director of basketball operations. Bill Teegins, 48, was the play-by-play voice of the Cowboys. Jared Weiberg, 22, was a student manager.
Ten men, ten lives. Gone in an instant.
"I didn't understand it until this tragedy how much these guys meant to me," said former Cowboys star Desmond Mason. "They really impacted us as a team and as a university. Thank you for allowing us to be in your lives."
Fredrik Jonzen was among the nearly two dozen Oklahoma State team members, coaches and personnel on board the two planes that safely returned to Stillwater.
Those on board - along with the victim's families and friends - are still trying to survive.
Survive the hurt.
Survive the nightmares.
Survive the guilt.
"Since the crash many people have asked me what I have learned from it," Jonzen wrote in an e-mail to FanHouse. "I think the biggest thing to take away from something like this is how to move on with your life. It was a tragic accident where 10 guys died that shouldn't have. There's not much positives to take from that.
"I think we should just cherish their memories and what qualities they had, but also try to get back to living your own life as normal as possible."
Jonzen, 32, lives in his native Sweden. A 2002 Oklahoma State graduate, he's still playing basketball in his hometown of Uppsala. Jonzen may be nearly 5,000 miles and seven time zones away from Stillwater, but the distance doesn't make it any easier.
"There's a quote I really think is perfect: 'Sometimes you need what's familiar to help you face what isn't,' " said Jonzen, referring to "The Horse Boy" by Rupert Isaacson. "There doesn't always have to be a lesson learned in tragedies.
"Continue living your life and make the best out of your life. Do the things that are 'familiar' to you. That will make the most sense to you moving forward."
Moving forward. Two simple words. Not so simple, however, when you've lost a husband, a father, a brother, a son or a best friend.
Jonzen's roommate that season was Nate Fleming.
In all of Oklahoma State's storied basketball tradition, Fleming was probably the most popular player in Cowboys history -- well, at least, the most popular Cowboy that scored only three career points. When the Cowboys were up big in the second half, the chants cascaded from the student section inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. "Nate! Nate! Nate!" The noise was so deafening – so obvious – Sutton said he felt guilty if he didn't play Fleming in the final minutes.
A walk-on from Edmond, Okla., Fleming was not only a crowd favorite, he also was smart. Actually, he was brilliant.
Who else but Fleming would find a house to live his second year in Stillwater located smack dab in the epicenter of OSU's sorority houses.
"My response was 'great,' "Jonzen said. "That's the place to be.
"There always seemed to be people over just hanging out. Nate had so many friends on campus it was ridiculous. Not only was he a great basketball player, he was also a very goal-oriented, driven and hard-working guy. On top of that he was one of the most humble guys you ever met."
Every so often Fleming would try to get cocky with his friends, but just couldn't pull it off. He would then just laugh at himself. Fleming also played the guitar and would often sit in the living room playing some tunes for friends.
But then came the day the music died. A few days after the accident, Jonzen was in his Fleming's room when he discovered one of Fleming's notebooks.
Jonzen opened the notebook. One page summed up Nate Fleming's dreams, aspirations and goals -- if only that plane had never crashed. Fleming had written the same sentence over and over: Nate Fleming is the starting point guard of Oklahoma State.
"That to me," Jonzen said, "showed his dedication to hard work and his strong belief that 'anything is possible.' "
For the past 10 years, Andre Williams has been haunted by nightmares. The nightmares don't occur as frequently as in 2001, but they still come back to visit him. Oh, how they always come back.
"The nightmares are getting further and further in between," Williams said. "I still have nightmares of plane crashes."
Williams tries not to fly anymore. But when he played professional basketball overseas from 2003-08, he was forced to climb onboard and fight his new-found fears and memories of Jan. 27, 2001.
Williams would be unable to sleep the night before a flight and there were periods when he was only sleeping two or three hours a day until he became "exhausted and would have to pass out and sleep."
As a freshman in 1999-00, Williams was a roommate with Fleming and Daniel Lawson. The following year, Williams and Lawson were roommates in an apartment just off campus over by the McDonald's on Washington Street.
In Oklahoma State's first game played nine days after the crash – a 69-66 win against Missouri – Williams was a beast. Jonzen, wearing Fleming's practice jersey under his game jersey, scored a career-high 26 points. Williams, who has moved back to Stillwater, said Monday he doesn't remember that game or speaking at the memorial service.
"I was so emotionally drained with everything going on," Williams said. "It's all a blur."
Williams does have one vivid memory – the open door.
Each night before Williams went to sleep – or tried to go to sleep – he would close Lawson's bedroom door and lock it. Some nights he would hear things. Most mornings he would discover Lawson's door had been opened.
"I'm a spiritual person and I believe in God, but I finally went to the landlord," said Williams, who has a tattoo on his back with a cross and the numbers 3 and 11, signifying Lawson's and Fleming's jersey numbers. "I had to leave that apartment. It was hurting to be in that apartment."
Doug Gottlieb still hurts. Gottlieb graduated from Oklahoma State in 2000 and left Stillwater the season before the crash. But the victims were part of his family.
"The impact it's had on me?" Gottlieb said earlier this week. "It was like losing 10 family members all at once."
Gottlieb was playing professionally in Russia when he received a phone call on Jan. 28, 2001. It was Gottlieb's father. He told his son to sit down and broke the news to him. Because he had signed only two weeks earlier, his Russian team officials would not allow Gottlieb to return for the memorial service.
"I'm sorry for the loss of your friends," a team official told Gottlieb. "Now let's go to practice."
"It was pretty traumatic," Gottlieb said. "I had some survivor's guilt. We had a basketball family. You do everything together. When you are on the road in the Big 12 playing in front of 15,000 fans, the only people you have is your team. You make a bucket on the road and it's silent except for those 10 players cheering for you."
Gottlieb admitted he never had time to properly grieve and ended up burying his feelings for several years.
"I eventually went through some therapy and I'm in a much better place," Gottlieb said. "It's good to think about those guys, those men. How I should remember that incident and remember those men. That's always going to be a part of my life."
Now an ESPN college basketball analyst and host of "The Doug Gottlieb Show" on ESPN Radio, Gottlieb said he wouldn't be where he is now without the help of Bill Teegins and Will Hancock. Teegins was the Cowboys' play-by-play broadcaster, providing Gottlieb with tips and advice to help his post-basketball career. Hancock was the team's media relations director and made Gottlieb the unofficial team spokesman, allowing him to perfect his gift of gab by dealing with the media.
Will Hancock's father, Bill, awoke in the middle of the night 10 days before the plane crash. Bill Hancock had a terrible nightmare. The worst nightmare. He had just dreamed Will had died in an accident.
Bill immediately called Will and left a message. His son called him back the next day and they talked for more than an hour. Before hanging up, Bill reminded his son how much he loved him. It was their last conversation.
"If I had any doubt about the mysterious ways that God works, I don't anymore," said Hancock, who wrote an incredible book, "Riding With The Blue Moth," that details Hancock's cross-country bicycle ride that helped him deal with his son's death.
These days, Bill Hancock still dreams about Will. But these dreams are pleasant. Ultimately though, the dream ends the same way with Bill trying to persuade Will to stay. Will says he's sorry. Then he disappears.
Will Hancock's funeral service was held at a Stillwater Methodist church. The hundreds who couldn't fit inside went to a nearby Catholic church and watched the ceremony via closed-circuit television.
Many mourners said they had never heard a more moving eulogy that the one given by Bill Hancock.
"It wasn't anything you could even imagine that the finest literary giants could pen, one can't describe it," said Big 12 associate commissioner Tim Allen, who has known Bill Hancock for more than 30 years. "It left everyone with a loss for words, but more importantly, it left everybody feeling better about themselves.
"I'm sure it was therapeutic for Bill, but it was therapeutic for everyone that was there. It was the most incredible thing you've ever heard."
Former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas, who hired Hancock, then a sportswriter in Hobart, Okla., in 1978 as his media relations director, was impressed by Hancock's unique sense of humor.
Nothing is harder in life than for a parent to bury a child. Yet, on his darkest day, Hancock managed to brighten others' lives.
"I remember Bill saying, 'My son got a 1,400 on the SAT,' " Neinas said. "Then he looked toward (former Oklahoma football coach) Barry Switzer and said, "That means he could have gone to OU twice and played for the Sooners.' "
Switzer laughed and held up three fingers.
"My goal was to make sure people knew Will; I wanted to honor him," said Bill, who left his job running the NCAA men's basketball tournament to become executive director of the BCS. "I have this fear that people are going to forget him. It's crazy, irrational, I know it's not true, but it's a fear I had."
Bill Hancock's fears did not come true. His son was not forgotten. Just look around at the standing ovation from the 13,611 fans inside Gallagher-Iba Arena Wednesday night as Oklahoma State unfurled a banner from the arena rafters and announced it would retire the No. 10 jersey in honor of The Ten.
As much as it hurts, life does go on.
Three years ago, Bill Teegins' daughter, Amanda, got married. Brian Luinstra's widow and their two children light a "Brian" candle to remember him on special occasions. Denver Mills' son, David, still has the watch his dad wore when the plane crashed. The Rolex still reads: Jan. 27. The time is 24 seconds past 6:37 p.m. It is David's most cherished possession.
Will Hancock's daughter, Andie, was two months old when her daddy died. She's now in the fourth-grade and spent part of Wednesday's game hugging her granddad.
Moving forward. Just keep moving forward.
Life still goes on, but some lives ended 10 years ago because of some last-minute decisions and fate. Decisions that ultimately determined who would survive and who did not.
Before the three airplanes departed Jefferson County Airport, Sutton made a few late changes. Because of it assistant Kyle Keller and radio analyst Tom Dirato are still alive today.
"The guilt," Dirato said, "never goes away."
Following OSU's 81-71 loss to Colorado that night, Sutton wanted Keller on one of the two faster planes – which would return to Stillwater at least a half-hour earlier than the older airplane – to break down game film and start preparing for their next game. So Nate Fleming traded seats with Keller.
Dirato's aching back had flared up and the older airplane was a longer, bumpier ride. So Sutton had Lawson switch seats with Dirato.
And then there was Joe Riddle, one of two radio engineers for OSU. Riddle was originally scheduled to work the Colorado game, but asked a favor of Kendall Durfey, the other engineer, to take his place. So Durfey filled in for Riddle.
Three innocent decisions. Three life-changing decisions.
The hardest part for Keller was that he was a cousin of Fleming's. Keller was a big reason Fleming walked on at OSU. Keller felt an obligation to Fleming's parents to watch over Nate.
Keller, now a video coordinator at Kansas, was among the family members and friends of The Ten that attended Wednesday night's game with Texas. Keller and his wife now have a 20-month-old son.
They named him after Nate.
Sutton said the ceremony brought back some good memories seeing the families, then admitted "but this also brings back a lot of sad memories for us about the 10 men we lost that day."
Before the game, fans wearing "Remember The Ten" T-shirts stood in front of the Memorial that honors the victims. Dozens of flower bouquets, including 10 provided by Texas' coaching staff, rested against the Memorial and surrounded the grieving Cowboy statue that symbolizes the victims.
Cell phone cameras continually flashed, illuminating the victim's names. A box of opened Kleenex sat on each bench.
This memorial is dedicated in memory of
the Ten loved ones and friends of
Oklahoma State University
who perished in an airplane crash
5:37 p.m. MST, 6:37 p.m. CST
on January 27, 2001
near Strasburg, Colorado.
Playing in front of the victim's families, Texas defeated Oklahoma State 61-46 Wednesday night. At times, the game seemed like an afterthought.
Afterward, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford and senior Marshall Moses talked about wanting to honor the victims.
"The game was secondary to what was important," Ford said. "(The Ten) are a part of us. It was a great night, a very emotional night. I'm disappointed we didn't play better. I wish we could have played better for them."
On Thursday night, a familiar sound will echo throughout Oklahoma State's campus. As it has every year since 2001, at 6:37 p.m., the Oklahoma State Library Carillon will toll 10 times in honor of each individual who died.
Kendall Durfey. Bjorn Fahlstrom. Nate Fleming. Will Hancock. Daniel Lawson. Brian Luinstra. Denver Mills. Pat Noyes. Bill Teegins. Jared Weiberg.
"It's important for people to know those people are worthy of being known," Gottlieb said. "There wasn't a bad dude on that plane.
"It's not about me, Desmond (Mason), Coach Sutton – it's about them. We've never forgotten, we'll never forget. We're here for them. They represented the program the way we wanted, the right way. That's what you live with when you're a survivor. I have to live for them and represent them and I don't carry that lightly.
"What we did together in Stillwater -- what we had together -- that was special."
Special indeed. Never forget that.
Brett McMurphy is a national college writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY