Memorial services begin following tragic crash

Planners expect 20,000 to attend Sen. Paul Wellstone’s memorial at Williams Arena tonight

Josh Linehan

The world will say goodbye to U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone today at the University.

Plans continued in earnest Monday for a memorial service for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was killed along with his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, and three campaign workers in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minn., on Friday morning.

The service at Williams Arena will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and organizers are preparing for more than 20,000 mourners.

Former President Bill Clinton, as well as most of the U.S. Senate and other distinguished guests, is expected to attend.

The service will also honor the other victims of the crash: campaign aide Will McLaughlin, 23, a former University student, Tom Lapic, 59, a longtime campaign worker, Mary McEvoy, 49, a campaign worker and University professor, and pilots Richard Conroy, 55, and Michael Guess, 30.

Classes will not be canceled Tuesday night.

University Parking and Transportation Services issued a press release Monday warning of heavy traffic Tuesday evening. They advise students wishing to attend the memorial to arrive as early as 4:30 p.m., when doors will open. They also encourage students attending night classes to arrive one hour early.

Wellstone spokeswoman Allison Dobson said the ceremony would be a celebration of the lost lives through eulogists and a variety of music. No list of speakers or performers was available as of press time Monday. The theme will be “Stand up, keep fighting.”

University students and the public are encouraged to attend. Memorial-goers are also encouraged to carpool and use public transportation to help avoid potential traffic troubles.

“This will be a populist event,” Dobson said. “We’ve tried really, really hard to do this in the spirit of the six people we lost.”

To that end, one of the ultimate symbols of Wellstone’s populist stumping – his signature green bus – will be parked outside the Washington Avenue entrance to Williams Arena. Wellstone rode the unheated bus all across the state while campaigning for senator in 1990.

The arena, which seats 14,000-plus people, will be expanded by adding an additional 5,000-6,000 seats in the Sports Pavilion. Live video and audio will be available in the pavilion.

Security will be tight but not oppressive, Dobson said, with police present and checking bags. Metal detectors are also likely.

“There’s going to be security but it’s not going to be overbearing. It will be like if you go to a basketball game,” Dobson said.

Organizers are also attempting to provide an audio feed outside, in case people cannot get into the building.

Parking and Transportation officials said no streets will be closed, although the north lane of University Avenue Southeast in front of Williams Arena will be closed for use as parking for trucks providing satellite feed.

Josh Linehan covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]