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View Diary: "They Just Started Shooting Us Down" -- Kent State (305 comments)

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  •  Where were you that day? (9+ / 0-)

    I was in high school, running track practice that afternoon.  We heard when we came in.  It makes me angry to this day.  And, you're right - the reactions of many adults were almost worse than the event itself.  Many seemed to see no problem with it, but mostly they really didn't wnt to know what happened.

    -4.63,-3.54 If the people will lead the leaders will follow

    by calebfaux on Wed May 03, 2006 at 03:34:20 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I was a freshman at Western College for Women (10+ / 0-)

      in Oxford, OH. It was a wonderful private women's college, known for its courageous activism.

      It was at Western that the Freedom Summer volunteers were trained in 1964. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were there when they heard that the church outside Philadelphia, MS had been burned and they left and drove all night to get back and talk to people. Of course, the next day, the Klan caught up with them and they were killed. Rita Schwerner was still at Western when she heard they were missing. The rest of the kids left Western knowing the kinds of risk they were taking.

      I was in the second to last graduating class at Western which -- like so many private women's colleges of the day -- closed its doors in 1974. It was purchased by Miami University and is now home to their honors college.

      We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders. -- Noam Chomsky

      by kainah on Wed May 03, 2006 at 03:48:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was a student at Baldwin-Wallace in Berea, Ohio (13+ / 0-)

      Berea is a southwestern suburb of Cleveland, about 45 minutes from KSU.  They were lovely spring days.

      The National Guard that were sent to go into Kent State  were housed in the Armory in Berea.  I will never forget their practice marching in the streets of small-town suburban America the day before they entered the campus.

      Four students died the next day.

      I went to my first candelight vigil that night.

      There have been too many..

    •  I was attending Earlham College (7+ / 0-)

      in nearby Richmond, Indiana.  I cried so much that week.  It felt like losing family.
      Thanks for the diary.  Yes, it could easily happen again.

      One cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own. James Baldwin

      by CarolynC967 on Wed May 03, 2006 at 06:58:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I Was in High School in Ohio (10+ / 0-)

      I don't remember the day specifically, just the time. I was 16. I was looking down the barrel of the draft, but I was lucky enough to get a high draft number when my time came.

      What I remember better is 1968, when I was still in Jr. High School. We had a wonderful teacher, Ms. Birch, who was incredibly interested in politics. I didn't have a class from her, but some of my friends did and I found out that she was planning field trips to see the candidates.

      The first candidate was Hubert Humphrey. I had defended him in debates in civics class, but he was far from exciting. I don't remember where we saw him.

      The second candidate was Richard Nixon. We went to Columbus (by bus, of course) to see him. We couldn't get into the auditorium because it was too full and we stood outside and listened to his speech on loud speakers.

      The third candidate was George Wallace. I think he was some place in Akron, maybe. A protestor came down the center aisle carrying a sign and his response was "Let the police handle it." I thought that made some sense. Then I remember Ms. Birch remarking something like, "That's what he would say--let the police handle it!" It made me think.

      I want to pay this little bit of respect to her for taking a stand and helping us learn about politics. Without her, I might have left politics to others and just accepted whatever came up. But, somehow, her activism wore off on me, maybe dimly. When I turned 18, I marched down to the court house in Canton and registered to vote.

      I think it was because I saw that someone cared. Her light shined on me. That is where our hope really lies: in transmitting that light to those who are younger.

      So, I hope some of you are in college or high school or even in grade school. I hope you are listening and I hope you are starting to get involved. One day, all this (the pain and the pleasure, the disasters and the greatness) will be yours.

      Liberal Thinking

      Think, liberally.

      by Liberal Thinking on Wed May 03, 2006 at 07:51:30 PM PDT

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    •  My wife and I were sitting down to eat (6+ / 0-)

      when the news broke in and showed the carnage. My kids were trying to ask us why the "army" was shooting down Americans. What do you tell children who see any kind of violence on the screen? I guess after a while, they become numb to it all because in today's world, that's really all they see on a screen. When my children looked for an answer to what they saw that day, their father and mother had no answer for them. No one is that intelligent to inform a child why grown ups have so much evil in them that the government shoots their own college kids.

    •  I was a student (5+ / 0-)

      at the University of Minnesota. I was caught on campus when they shot tear gas at the students during a protest on Washington Avenue off the mall. I ran away from the scene with my heart pounding, just escaping the effects of the tear gas that was in clouds all over the area. I will never forget it, and I will never forget the horror of what happened at Kent State.

      "The election's over. We won. It's all over but the counting, and we'll take care of the counting." Rep. Peter King (R-NY) at WH function, 2003

      by kathika on Wed May 03, 2006 at 11:34:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was there that day... (13+ / 0-)

      A 23 year old graduate student, teaching Theatre classes in the morning, and planning on attending the rally at noon.  I told my students to attend and show support for freedom of assembly.  

      On the Commons, student radicals attracted attention by grabbing the clanger on the victory bell, and ringing it for minutes at a time.  Normally employed only after infrequent Kent State football victories, the demonstrators had claimed it as their clarion.  Students walking to classes stopped to observe.

      Various speakers shouted profanely about "pigs off campus" and organized anti-war chants.  When the jeep with a National Guardsman drove up to us, using a megaphone and ordering us to disperse, we got more vocal, more demonstrative.  

      After a second pass by the jeep was met with continued jeering, the Guard donned gas masks and advanced on us.  Half of us went back up the hill to the left of Taylor Hall, and the rest went to the right.  They were the unfortunate ones eventually shot at, a crowd of perhaps 50, with nine of them wounded and four of them killed.  I went up the left side of the hill, into a dorm, and escaped the drifting clouds of tear gas.

      When I came back outside, I returned to the Commons, not realizing the confrontation was still going on behind Taylor Hall.  Hundreds of students surrounded the Commons, on a sidewalk named Lilac Lane.  When we heard the gunfire, a 13 second volley, the consensus in the crowd was the shots were blanks.  Seeming to confirm our hopes, within seconds we all saw the Guard marching back down the hill, where they reassembled around the burned out shell of the ROTC building.

      None of us on the Commons knew about the massacre, however, until a young female student appeared at the top of Blanket Hill screaming and crying and wailing.  She ran down the hill shouting "murderers, murderers" at the top of her voice, finally stopping 20 or 30 feet in front of the still gas-masked troops lined up in formation.  She fell to her knees, pounding her fists into the ground, and continued shouting "shoot ME!, shoot ME!" over and over.  

      That's when we knew the extent of the horrible tragedy we had witnessed.  That's when we knew the shots were not blanks.

      People in the crowd went to the still screaming student to comfort her, pulling her up and away from the Guard.  The crowd, stunned and angry, instinctively went back to the rally's starting point, and sat on the hill, again facing the still armed Guard.  

      Rally organizers addressed us and gave us the details on the shootings which had just occured.  They were imploring us to continue to hold our ground, and oppose the military occupation of our campus.

      Meanwhile, various rally monitors and professors were "negotiating" with the Guard commanders, who were again threatening violence on us if we did not disperse.

      Only after an impassioned plea to the assembled mourners by Glenn Frank, a physics professor, was further tragedy averted.  He was in tears as he shouted that we would all be shot at again if we didn't comply.  The depth of his emotions, which I will never ever forget, convinced us of the futility of fighting the monster, and we slowly started to leave the scene of the crime.  In small groups of twos and three, we walked away.

      By this time I was with fellow Theatre students and we walked back up the hill toward the Music & Speech building, where I had an office.  On our way, we saw the last of the wounded being cared for, waiting for ambulances.  The most seriously wounded, and the dead, had already been transported.

      But the blood was still fresh on the concrete.  Four Dead in Ohio.  

      That's how it is on this bitch of an earth. Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot"

      by ohiojack on Wed May 03, 2006 at 11:37:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for this account (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peraspera, celticshel, Alegre, calebfaux, ama

        When we heard the gunfire, a 13 second volley, the consensus in the crowd was the shots were blanks.  Seeming to confirm our hopes, within seconds we all saw the Guard marching back down the hill, where they reassembled around the burned out shell of the ROTC building.

        None of us on the Commons knew about the massacre, however, until a young female student appeared at the top of Blanket Hill screaming and crying and wailing.  She ran down the hill shouting "murderers, murderers" at the top of her voice, finally stopping 20 or 30 feet in front of the still gas-masked troops lined up in formation.  She fell to her knees, pounding her fists into the ground, and continued shouting "shoot ME!, shoot ME!" over and over.  

        I've always kind of wondered what it was like to be on that side of the hill. The photos are pretty clear evidence that people on the Commons didn't really have any idea about what was going on on the other side of the hill.

        I think that girl's name was Pam, btw. It must have been absolutely heart-wrenching to hear her screaming that.

        Only after an impassioned plea to the assembled mourners by Glenn Frank, a physics professor, was further tragedy averted.  He was in tears as he shouted that we would all be shot at again if we didn't comply.  The depth of his emotions, which I will never ever forget, convinced us of the futility of fighting the monster, and we slowly started to leave the scene of the crime.  In small groups of twos and three, we walked away.

        Glenn Frank really was a hero that day. I've only heard his appeal on tapes of that day but, whenever I hear it, it makes me cry. Seymour Baron was another faculty member trying to get the situation controlled. There is more about Glenn Frank down further in this thread.

        On our way, we saw the last of the wounded being cared for, waiting for ambulances.  The most seriously wounded, and the dead, had already been transported.

        You may not want to hear this but, actually, that last ambulance had both Jeff Miller and Sandy Scheuer in it. (And maybe even Allison Krause; I can't remember for sure.) The ambulance attendants did a pretty good job of triage in the parking lot and they waited to transport Jeff and Sandy until the last because both were clearly dead.

        We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders. -- Noam Chomsky

        by kainah on Wed May 03, 2006 at 11:54:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Her name was Pam Mills... (7+ / 0-)

          And she and her husband Mike were both Theatre majors, and friends of mine.

          Have you ever looked into the odd connection between May 4th and the demonstration that occured the previous spring, in 1969, on the Kent Campus?  

          A student radical was being disciplined by the Administration, and a hearing was scheduled.  Supporters of the student decided to "attend" the hearing.  Flyers were produced promoting a rally at Tri-Towers, a dorm complex, to be held on the scheduled day of the hearing.  After protesters began assembling on that day, the organizers started moving the crowd from dorm to dorm, with bull-horns and megaphones, gathering more and more students.  Eventually, over 500 students were marching on the Administration Building.

          I confess to being one of them.

          Once we got there, however, we learned the hearing had been moved to the other side of the campus, to the Music & Speech building.  We all ran to get to the new location, perhaps a half-mile away.  

          When we got there, 50 or so managed to enter the building, but the rest of us were blocked by fraternity/football player types, and the confrontration was forever known as "The Greeks Against the Freaks."

          Following a standoff of over 12 hours, sometime after midnight, campus buses pulled up and carted the arrested sit-in protesters off to Portage County Jail in Ravenna for booking.  Charges I believe were eventually dropped.

          Later that year, the House Un-American Committee (HUAC), in one of its final acts before being disbanded, held public hearings on the demonstration and issued a 150-200 page report, complete with photos of every phase of the "riot."

          I remember the amazement my friends and I felt at the extensive coverage of this event.  We had no idea as to the extent of surveillance we were receiving.  

          Was Terry Norman already employed by the FBI at that time?

          Did Nixon and Rhodes see an opportunity?

          For as you know, "When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy."

          Thank you for an incredibly accurate diary.  Highly recommended.  I'll be reading parts I & II and look forward to IV.

          That's how it is on this bitch of an earth. Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot"

          by ohiojack on Thu May 04, 2006 at 01:08:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            peraspera, mitchvance

            Pam Mills.... Wow. I'd actually kind of forgotten about that part -- her running over the hill and screaming "Shoot ME! Shoot ME!" -- until I read your account. And then, from the back of my brain, the name Pam came forward. There are so many Kent State facts packed into my head that, a lot of the time, I'm surprised when they pop out and then, even more pleased when they turn out to be right.

            I know about the Music & Speech demonstrations, of course, and also the interesting timing that Rick Erickson, Howie Emmer, Colin Neiburger & I'm forgetting someone were released from the Portage County Jail on April 30 or May 1. It doesn't appear that they had any involvement in events of that fateful weekend, however.

            As for Terry Norman, he'd been on the payroll of campus police, at least, for several years. So, yes, he was working "undercover" at the time of Music & Speech. From what I've read and know, that basically just sounds like a somewhat typical campus protest gone awry but, because there were a number of intelligence agents working on campus, I'm sure they were probably involved in some provocations as well.

            The HUAC hearings interest me even more as they show that outsized (for the level of disturbance, activism, etc.) attention had been cast on Kent State at least a year in advance. I read the hearing transcripts of the Kent portion of that years ago and was just struck by how people (like Maggie Murvay of WKSU) seemed to be trying to paint a very radical picture of the campus so that they could get a pat on the head for being a "good informer."

            Another thing that has captured my interest for a long time is the presence of Terry Robbins on Kent's campus. Robbins supposedly ended up dead in the Manhattan townhouse explosion of the Weatherman that happened in March 1970. But what's curious is that there are eyewitnesses who say he was at Kent that May 1-4 weekend. His death in the townhouse wasn't announced by the Weather Underground until after Kent State and was then announced as a reaction to the Kent shootings. (Something like, "our comrade, Terry Robbins, who helped lead demonstrations at Kent State, died in the townhouse explosion.") Except there were never enough pieces of the body found to make a positive ID and it appears that the Weatherman assumed he was the 3rd victim there (with Diana Oughton and Ted Gold) because he didn't turn up later. But we know a number of other people were in the townhouse when it exploded and, in addition to Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson, who escaped out the front, several others were said to have fled out the back. So, I've always wondered about Terry Robbins.... Was he really at Kent State? He is credited in all the Weatherman material as one of the most radical, always pushing for more and more violence. He is said to have been the one who came up with the plan to bomb the dance -- the bomb they were building at the time of the explosion. To me, all that sounds like the profile of an agent provocateur, so I remain curiously suspicious.

            We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders. -- Noam Chomsky

            by kainah on Thu May 04, 2006 at 10:06:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for writing and sharing. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kainah

        My dad was beaten at a rally in Washington, while my mother was dragged around by the hair. Stuff like that is why we have to be so opposed to any efforts to create a police state in this country. It doesn't matter how they try to frame the issue, we have to call it for what it is.

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