Friday, August 31, 2012

Visiting the Kent State May 4 Memorial

Today was a difficult, tearful, most touching day. I spent this morning and early afternoon at the site of what is referred to today on wikipedia as the Kent State Massacre. Almost invariably, most "baby-boomers" are familiar with what occurred on May 4, 1970.  At 1224 PM, within thirteen seconds, 28 Ohio National Guard fired 67 shots into a crowd of students. They were demonstrating against the decision by President Richard Nixon to extend the Viet Nam war by invading Cambodia.  Four students were killed and nine others wounded. 

As I wandered the site this morning all the memories of that tumultuous time in our history came back.  I constantly was welling up with tears as I walked around Taylor Hall. Almost invariably whenever I started to speak with anyone this morning about it I started to cry. I met a young woman looking at one of the displays on the grounds.  I started to speak with her and as soon as I did my voice began to quake. Although I hadn't been there, I felt as if I had.  I well up now as I type this. The four students killed were aged 19-20. On that day, in 1970 I was looking forward to my nineteenth birthday.  I got to experience that birthday, and many more. They never did. As I walked around the site I was constantly confronted with the feeling that it could have been me.

Today was difficult, very difficult in many ways, but it was a journey I needed to make.  I needed to come here today to pay my respects not only to those who died, but also to those who have struggled to come to terms with what happened that day.  It was a very very angry time.  America was engaged in a brutal war and it was, almost literally, tearing the country apart.

I was privileged today to have the opportunity to have a brief tour of the yet to be opened memorial display housed in the basement of Taylor Hall.  I met one of the curators whom I had been told was present the day of the shootings. As much as part of me wanted to, I could not summon the courage to ask her about her experience that day for fear that I would simply break down before her or that I would summon the same in her.  Yes, it was that emotional. 

For "baby boomers" it brings it all back. For all of us it provides another perspective on what was happening in those so difficult times.  I urge everyone, if you have the opportunity, to spend the time you need at this site to inquire, learn and reflect. 

I conclude for now with this quote that welcomes you as you enter the memorial. It is from Alison Krause, (April 23, 1951 - May 4, 1970) who was killed that day.

Dates and facts are not enough to show what happened in the past. It is necessary to delve into the human side of history to come up with the truth.  History must be made relevant to the present to make it useful.

 Mary Ann Vecchio, screaming in anguish over the body of Jeffrey Miller.

It was from this vantage point that the National Guard aimed and fired.

 Yes, it could have been me.

One lethal reminder that exists today. One of the bullets pierced half inch thick steel through this sculpture.  The memorial in the distance is to Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed.

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