Student protests against the Vietnam War grew so intense in the spring of 1970 that the Ohio National Guard was called in to patrol the campus. Shortly after noon on May 4, 1970, something triggered the military personnel to fire into a crowd of protesters and bystanders — killing four students and wounding nine others.
It was a significant moment in the lives of students who were on campus that day, in the University’s and the city’s collective memory, and in United States History.
I spent some time today visiting the sites where the ROTC Building was burned to the ground… the route the National Guard marched across campus… and the parking lot where four Kent State University students were killed…
If it wasn’t for the COVID-19 crisis, this 50th Anniversary would have been a really big deal on campus. Instead, it appeared that just a handful of people kept vigil overnight on the sites where the four students died. It felt sad on a whole different level from the sadness that would have been prompted by the originally-planned remembrances. But I also felt a strange sense of hope in the middle of all the sadness and silence.
It was helpful to remember a time when our nation was ideologically divided, when the University’s academic year was unexpectedly cut short, and when the world seemed like it was falling apart. And to remember that we got through it. Or at least we’re getting through it.
I’m praying for peace and perseverance today.