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Remembering the seven lives lost in the April 7 Bloomington plane crash

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Redbird Remembrance Memorial
Redbird Remembrance Memorial April 7th

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) -- April 7th is a day many in Bloomington-Normal community will never forget. In 2015, seven people were flying back from the NCAA Final Four and Championship Game in Indianapolis, when their plane crashed near the Central Illinois Regional Airport and all seven people in the plane perished.

The people in the plane that day were Illinois State associate men's basketball coach Torrey Ward, Illinois State Deputy Director of Athletics Aaron Leetch, Pub II patriarch Terry Stralow, investment officer Jason Jones, Spring representative Andy Butler, business owner Scott Bittner, and the pilot Tom Hileman.

Illinois State Assistant Athletic Director of Communications Mike Williams said that day and the week after felt like "it was a whirlwind honestly."

The university and the families of the deceased remember the lives of those seven people every April 7th by promoting everyone to do seven random acts of kindness.

In September of 2015 a memorial was erected outside of Redbird Arena to remember the seven, and each year people pay their respects by leaving flowers, notes, and other tokens.

"It's just kind of amazing to go out by the [Redbird Remembrance] memorial every year on this day because people are just coming in and out all day, leaving flowers, leaving photos, leaving notes, just little remembrances for those guys, because they touched so many people's lives in this community," said Williams.

Speaking on his memories of Ward and Leetch, Williams said,

"It was a huge loss for a lot of us for a lot of us that looked up to Aaron and viewed him as a mentor in our careers, and everybody loved Torrey, he was such a fun loving guy, always smiling and joking around. Everybody that I knew that ever worked or been around him, the players adored him, all the other coaches and the people that worked over in Redbird Arena really respected him and both guys were thought of as rising stars in their various professions, so it certainly hit home."

To honor them each year, their wives, fiancée's and children created Project 7, which encourages everyone to perform seven random acts of kindness on April 7. To learn more about the initiative, visit its Facebook page.

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Holden Krusemark

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