Some know the date because of "We Are Marshall," the film that chronicles the tragedy, but for
Her 27-year-old husband,
For her, that meant focusing completely on the boys to the exclusion of doing what was right or best for her. And because she never imagined that anything would happen to her husband, there was no big hug and kiss or proper goodbye when he left to catch the flight.
"Looking back and realizing all of the things I've done, I realize my whole life has been dictated by that crash," she says. "Everything I did was wrong, but I didn't really come to that realization until around my 60th birthday. I didn't take care of myself."
Now 73 and living in
The crash even played a part in her interest in writing.
Immediately after the tragedy, she began writing notes and letters to her young children, telling them about their late father. It became a biography of sorts, then her own love story.
"I was a cheerleader and he was a football player and then we got married. It was a perfect story."
The letters grew into a book called "Kismet Consummated: A Mother's Memoir," published in 1975. Not really happy with the first draft, Carelli-Gilbert made some changes and additions and it was republished as "Halftime," a title that fit her life, she says.
"I felt like the first half of my life was over and I was over one hump and needed to get ready for the next," she says.
The book, republished in 1990 with an epilogue and updates, has connected with readers and to this day Carelli-Gilbert gets requests for it and for public-speaking appearances. Not a lot, she points out, but enough.
"Always from Marshall people," she says. "Now I'm getting requests from people who were kids at the time and who want to know what happened."
"I've read it 20 times," she says. "I was there through the whole thing. It is a very heart-wrenching book. Marti sat down right after the funeral and wrote these letters for those boys so they would know how wonderful their dad was. I read them the other day and cried my eyes out.
"She wrote this book for Vincent and Ronnie. It was a labor of love, and you can see it in every word."
Carelli-Gilbert says she's never taken money for a copy of the book whenever people request it, nor does she charge for speaking engagements. Her supply of books is running short, though, so she was happy to learn it now is available digitally. Today she carries business cards that tell people how to get it on their Kindle or Apple device.
When she was writing "Halftime," Carelli-Gilbert discovered she wrote best by the water in
Following the crash, Carelli-Gilbert says she had to move forward. Vincent's birthday was just a few days after the crash, and she started taking the boys to her in-laws and leaving them for a week.
"I wanted them to know their grandparents," she says. "People said I was wrong to leave my sons."
She also made plans to move away from
Insurance companies also were battling over whether the flight would be classified as a charter or passenger flight, she says, which would determine if the families would be awarded insurance money. They eventually were.
During that first year, Carelli-Gilbert spent time with
"Let's just say I didn't know what I was doing," she shrugs.
They had a son together, adopted a baby girl and stayed married for 19 years. They divorced in 1990, and she remarried in 1992.
Over the years, Carelli-Gilbert has worked twice for the
"I was never happy," she says. "Always underneath, I was looking for Al to walk in the door again. There was no goodbye."
But for whatever reason, reaching her 60th birthday marked a significant change in her life, she says.
"I came to a place of peace, I suppose," she says. "I don't think about the crash, but if the kids or anyone tells me they will be arriving at such and such a time and they are going to be late, they'd better call."
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