McNair’s hometown mourns death one year later

Published 12:12 am Monday, July 5, 2010

MT. OILVE (AP) — The celebrations of July 4 in this little town have taken on a sad aspect this year. For people here, it’s not only the birth of the nation, it’s the anniversary of the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

July 4 marked the one-year anniversary of McNair’s murder in Nashville. McNair, the former Alcorn State University and Tennessee Titans great, was shot and killed by his mistress, Sahel Kazemi, a 19-year-old who then turned the gun on herself. McNair was 36 and retired.

The Clarion Ledger reported on Sunday that Mount Olive Mayor Robert McNair, not related, said the town identified with Steve. He says that what happened last year on July 4 will never be forgotten here.

‘‘Not a day goes by people don’t remember Steve McNair and what he meant to this town,’’’ the mayor said. ‘‘I think this Sunday, a lot of people are going to reflect back.’’

Tim McNair, Steve’s older brother by two years and his former Alcorn State teammate, said the McNair family will spend a quiet day trying to be strong for one another, especially for Lucille McNair, Steve’s mother.

‘‘We’ll go to church, then we’ll come home and eat dinner,’’ Tim McNair, a football coach at Laurel High School, said Friday. ‘‘We’ll pray together, eat together, remember Steve together, laugh together and cry together. I’m sure there will be all kinds of emotion.’’

July was always the McNairs’ ‘‘family month,’’ Fred McNair said, climaxed by a huge celebration for Mount Olive-area children the night before Steve McNair left for NFL training camp.

‘‘Steve called it Fun Day,’’ Tim McNair said. ‘‘We’d have hundreds and hundreds of kids out to the ranch, and Steve would have fireworks and waterslides for them. He’d feed all the kids hamburgers and hot dogs. Steve really loved the kids. He wanted them to have the things we didn’t have growing up.’’

DeRon Hill, 21, remembered those Fun Days. He said especially the way Steve McNair was always happy to share what he had.

‘‘If he had it, he would give it to you,’’ Hill said. ‘‘And he always had that smile on his face.’’