Today is the 40th anniversary of the anti-war protests at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. For those of you under 40, May4.org has the history recap:
On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire into a busy college campus during a school day. A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds. Four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer were killed. Nine students were wounded.
Although I was in the first grade on May 4, 1970, I can't forget what happened in Kent, Ohio on that day.
I was there.
Not on campus, I was in first grade. In Kent, Ohio. My father and my mother's father were both faculty members at Kent. By 1970 my grandfather had retired from the Math Department. When he retired in 1968 he was the only math professor on record as opposing the War in Vietnam.
My dad, on the other hand, was in the Art Department. Nuff said.
We were rushed home from school that day in a panic of police sirens, smoke, and confusion.
When I got home, my mother had the front door locked for the first time in my life. "Mommy, what is happening?" "I don't know, dear." Mom not knowing, being visibly scared and shaken. Another first.
But she had our sole black-and-white TV on and Walter Cronkite was talking about Kent. That was exciting to my six-year-old heart. I didn't see the consequences, had no idea what death was, let alone that four college students had been shot to death that day in my hometown. Their only crime was protesting their government's illegal, unilateral invasion of Cambodia.
I know, it's hard to believe a Republican president invaded a far away country based on lies and innuendo. (/snark)
The sad irony of Kent State, and what made it so explosive in terms of the "silent majority" of Americans, was that those Americans who could afford it avoided the military draft and the dangers of Vietnam by enrolling their children full-time in college and graduate school. All four students killed on May 4 were full-time students. If the war was going to kill sons (and daughters!) in OHIO? Many who were not outspoken before May 4, now said it was time to stop the war once and for all.
At my own house, a mile or so from campus, my two younger sisters, both pre-schoolers, were in their pajamas in the middle of the afternoon because my mother thought there might be an evacuation and getting the girls in their pajamas was something she "could do." They were playing making a tent with a blanket and the dining room chairs.
They do not remember that day, because it was just another day to play and make a tent.
I remember a few days later Kent was really, truly, on that proverbial "cover of Newsweek." I said to my dad:
"Daddy, before no one ever heard of Kent. Now no one will ever forget."
The University has posted a calendar of events commemorating the 1970 tragedy, and WKSU has a remembrance website. Our sister site Newstalgia has a post up about California Governor Ronald Reagan closing California's State Colleges in response to the violence.