this summer i hear the drummin'.

There's a moment in everyone's life that changes you. I don't mean, makes you happy or sad, I mean changes the very fiber of your being, deep down into your core. Forty years ago today, May 4th 1970, long before I was born, an event happened that not only changed America, but changed my life.

I have been waiting to write about this for weeks. It's tough for me and while to some people it may seem like a blip in a history book, the Kent State shooting is something that I can't even think about without tears welling up in my eyes.

John Filo's photo of runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio crying over the body of Jeffery Miller won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Students on the Kent State University campus; the same campus I spent half a decade roaming, had been protesting for days about Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia. They were peaceful, but strong. The National Guard was called in to control the crowds; Ohio's govenor called the students tyrants, terrorists. The ROTC building was burnt to the ground by an unknown group; people came from all over to speak their peace.

Downtown Kent. I used to live right past the old hotel. I have walked where they walked.

On May the 4th at 12:24 pm, some of the guardsmen raised their rifles without order. What happened next was unthinkable. Some shot into the air, others into the ground, but a few shot into the crowd.

The building in the distance is Taylor Hall, where Josh spent much of his time in college. The students are standing on Blanket Hill.

Four people were killed; Jeffery Miller was shot in the mouth and died instantly. Allison Krause, who was protesting with her boyfriend, died of a fatal chest wound. William Schroeder, an ROTC student, died of a fatal chest wound. Sandra Scheuer died of a neck wound. Two of these students were protesting; two were simply walking to their next class.

As a freshman at Kent, I was required to take a class about May 4th. Watching that first video had a profound affect on my life; one that I can't put into words. The May 4th Task Force was founded to keep the memory of the day alive. My sophmore year, my friend Liz and I shared a dorm room across the street from the site of the shootings; now, a asphalt parking lot.

On May 3rd  of that year we saw people gathering outside at dark, lighting candles and singing songs. As I walked across the parking lot my heart sank. People were crying, some hugging the light posts that mark the spots of the fallen. They were the parents and I was able to shake each of their hands, hug them and tell them that what happened to their children was not lost on me.

As we come upon forty years since that day; with a war raging, with my husband willing volunteering his time to protect you and me. With me, hating so much of the voilence and political turmoil in this country, I stop and reflect on that day, what it meant for those kids to give their lives; what it means for us, today.

John Clearly lying wounded just beyond Taylor Hall. There is a sculpture in front of the building that still has a bullet hole in it.

They died for their freedoms; just as the soldiers in Vietnam were doing. They died for free speech and free thinking. They died so that I could sit on Blanket Hill, where the National Guard fired; amongst the daffodils, planted for each American killed in Vietnam, that bloom in the Springtime.

May 4th has molded much of who I am, politically and personally, as a person over much of my young adult life. I know I don't discuss politics much here at The 60/40 and I in no way want to push my view on you. But I sincerely hope that you'll click on the links and learn about the tragedy that has helped shape me and this beautiful country we call home.

- The Kent State Shootings on Wikipedia (a really good time line leading up the day of)
- The May 4th Task Force; Kent State's place to keep the memory alive.
- The Kent State Truth Tribunal (streaming live from 10am to 7pm from downtown Kent. First hand accounts from protesters, witnesses and families of the victims)
-A fantastic article from USA Today

May 4th, 1970. I won't ever forget, because it means too much.

I'll be back this afternoon with a happier post, I promise. I know this post was heavy; thank you, thank you, for letting me share this with you. xo.


colleen (mom) said...

Again my daughter what a wonderful piece you have written. I surely understand why this horrific incident has formed you into the wonderful caring women you have become. Though we dont always agree politically, I do belive this incident has had a profound effect on many. To those parents,and students who lost loved ones that day my heart and thoughts are with you all...

Jenny said...

I'm not sure if I've introduced myself before, but I've been reading your blog for a few months, and I love it so much. I love that it is often very light, and full of lovely pictures and happy projects. This was a new (to me) side of you/your blog, and it really moved me! As aan almost 30 years old swede, I can't say I know a lot about the politics during the 60's and 70's in the states, other than what I've seen in films, but I loved that you could put this tragic event to words without actually going into the politics too much. Great post!

/ Jenny

Beth said...

Oh, Roxanne, beautiful post.

divamcknitster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
divamcknitster said...

wow, what a powerful post. thank you for sharing this.

ETA: please thank your husband for protecting our country. i'll remember to keep him in my prayers, along with others serving our country.

Erin Wallace said...

My father was there that day - on the other side. He joined the guard in college to stay out of Vietnam. He never made any bones about this - he thought what was happening in Vietnam was wrong and this was his way out. Instead, he ended up at Kent State on one of the most infamous days in history. He claims that he didn't fire any shots. I've always chosen to believe this.

Roxanne said...

Erin, wow, wow, wow. This explains so much as to why you and I click. Give your dad a hug for me today!

Thank you all so much for your kind words. I was so unsure posting this today, but you've made it amazing. xo