On May 4, 1970, headlines across the country blared the news:
Four students killed at Kent State University
Some carried a sub-heading:
Ohio National Guard opens fire on antiwar protest
Those of us who were old enough to remember that day, those of us who were on a college campus that day, those of us who survived the actual shooting -- we have never forgotten. That moment, shortly after noon, when we learned that the Ohio National Guard had killed four students and wounded nine others during an antiwar protest changed our lives.
What we had feared -- but never believed could happen -- had come to pass. They were killing us for our beliefs.
Forty years later, many of us still wonder what really happened that day.
In memory of Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder, please follow me over the jump.
Next Tuesday, May 4, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. This anniversary promises to be special. There will be the deeply affecting candlelight vigils overnight at the spots where the four students fell dead. There will be the powerful symbolic candlelight march. There will surely be inspirational, reflective and gut-wrenching remembrances on the Commons on Tuesday. There will also be an amazing array of relevant films and speakers, including a presentation by the powerful civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis. You can check out a full schedule here.
But this year also promises something new, something that has the potential to provide solace, healing and perhaps even truth to those who remain haunted by what they witnessed and experienced all those years ago.
Laurel Krause, sister of victim Allison Krause, was fifteen years old when her sister was murdered by a bullet that ripped through her side and shattered, penetrating numerous major organs. Allison, who had just turned 19, died en route to the hospital as her anguished boyfriend held her, watching helplessly as her life slipped away. That day, Laurel lost her sister. And, in the months and years that followed, the search for truth consumed her father, effectively robbing Laurel of her father as well. From May 4, 1970 until the day he died, Arthur Krause never stopped searching for an explanation as to why he and his family had buried their eldest daughter on a quiet hillside in Pittsburgh.
Laurel worked hard to put her life back together after 1970. She worked hard to find the joy in life despite the deep sorrow that had pierced her heart at such a young and vulnerable age. But no matter what she did, she could never forget. Recently, she has become determined that, once more, an effort must be made to determine what really happened on May 4. Her commitment to this cause has given birth to the Kent State Truth Tribunal.
Kent State remains a seminal day in American history but the events that transpired on May 4, 1970 have never been thoroughly examined. Eight of the Ohio National Guardsmen who opened fire on protestors were indicted by a Grand Jury but the case was later dismissed. The victims´ families received $15,000 in compensation, a Statement of Regret and little information about what took place that day. The Ohio National Guard has never publicized the findings of its investigation of command responsibility for the shootings. And importantly, there has never been a public inquiry to hear, record and preserve the stories of those directly impacted by Kent State.
Forty years after the Kent State massacre, Laurel Krause and her 84-year old mother Doris still suffer the scars of losing their beloved sister and daughter Allison Krause. Other participants, family members and witnesses continue to grapple with the aftermath of the shootings. The Krause family initiated Four Days in May, the Kent State Truth Tribunal in order to reveal the truth and establish a clear and accurate historical record from the collective voices of Kent State.
The personal narratives of original 1970 Kent State witnesses and participants will be broadcast live over the first four days of May 2010 and will be available for all to hear, see, and read through the first live archive ever assembled for a truth-seeking initiative. The archive will combine video accounts with live messages broadcast from the site of the tribunal.
Award-winning filmmaker Emily Kunstler, daughter of civil rights attorney William Kunstler, will be documenting and recordings the stories of the Kent State Truth Tribunal participants. William Schaap, radical lawyer and creator of the Institute for Media Analysis Inc, is supporting the Kent State Truth Tribunal as fiscal sponsor for this groundbreaking event.
We hope the Kent State Truth Tribunal will help to heal those involved, establish cause and effect, and shed light on responsibility for the events that transpired on May 4, 1970. We have not set out in pursuit of punitive justice, but rather the restorative justice that comes from collective sharing and healing. The Truth Tribunal honors those whose lives have been directly affected by the killings and also marks the importance of Kent State as an influential chapter in the history of protest, democracy, civil rights and public security in the United States.
The Tribunal is seeking the testimony of all those who witnessed the events of that day as well as those who were deeply affected by it. If you are going to be at Kent State for the anniversary, and would like to tell your story, Laurel wants to hear it. She is asking those who can to preregister. But those who can't preregister are also welcome.
May 1, 2, 3 & 4, 2010, exactly forty years after the shootings. We will be open each day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and also during the 40th Annual Kent State Commemoration.
Franklin Square Deli Building at the corner of Water & Main Streets, 110 S. Water Street, 2nd & 3rd floors, downtown Kent, Ohio See Google Maps
In addition to truth, the Truth Tribunal seeks healing:
We consider the four days of the Truth Tribunal to be sacred, a time to respect the range of truths that will be presented and to honor those who have been touched by these events. We have made every effort to ensure that participants are afforded privacy and anonymity where requested. We have a separate, discreet entrance available by request.
The Truth Tribunal will be held on two floors. On the top floor, there are private rooms for participants to share their truths, equipped with cameras and videographers for those who wish to record and livecast their participation. Those who would like to remain anonymous may choose simple audio recordings or silhouette video.
On the lower floor there is an interactive, social space and also an area where participants may opt to simply write their recollections on the computers provided (we encourage you to bring your laptop). In the social area there will be snacks and beverages, and a lounge for those who wish to meet and share with others. There will be support staff available with expertise in trauma.
Please bring a flower as your admission.
Video cameras, computers, phones and all forms of communication are encouraged.
And if you cannot attend, you still have a unique opportunity to participate. The Truth Tribunal will be livecast each day on Michael Moore's website.
"It is an honor to work with the families of the victims and the participants in the May 4, 1970 protest at Kent State University to bring you their stories, beamed in from the Kent State Truth Tribunal through my website. We have never been told the whole truth about these killings and we deserve to hear that truth," said Mr. Moore.
So, please, if you are going to be in Kent and have a story to tell, visit the Truth Tribunal website and sign up to share your information. If you can't join us in person, join us through MichaelMoore.com. If you can afford to support this effort, please consider making a donation. And, most of all, keep the memories and spirits of those four beautiful young people lost that day in your hearts as we go through this 40th anniversary weekend.
In advance, thank you all for the heartwarming reception this community has always given to remembrances of that horrific day. On Tuesday, look for edsbrooklyn's "official" anniversary memorial diary on Kent State.