Candlelight vigil tradition to honor May 4 victims continues

Community members lay their candles near the May 4 memorial overnight to honor those lost in the Kent State shootings 51 years ago. 

Molly Heideman Managing Editor

At 11:00 p.m., the bell on Blanket Hill tolled, beginning the forty-minute walk around campus to a vigil at the site of the May 4 shootings. 

Participants carried lit candles as they made their way to the Prentice Hall parking lot in silence. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the university opted not to hold an official candlelight vigil this year but a group of about 30 people showed up to remember Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, William Schroeder and Allison Krause, as is tradition.

Jennifer Schwartz Mrazek, a cousin of Krause, said coming to the vigil helps her feel connected with Allison. 

“It’s a haunting feeling knowing what happened here,” Schwartz Mrazek said. “As always, [I feel] empowered coming back here because it helps me reconnect with the motivation to make change in the world and that inspiration that I think my cousin was.”

Along with the markers of the four students who were killed by National Guard members, there are now markers for the students who were wounded. 

Alan Canfora, one of the nine students who was wounded, died earlier this year following a brief illness. There was a black flag placed at the marker in his honor and the walk was dedicated to his memory. 

Senior communication studies major Julia Kelch said she has come to the vigil each year she’s been a student and thinks it’s important to educate people about what happened. 

“It’s an important part of Kent State history, and I think it’s a part that Kent State itself is kind of embarrassed about,” Kelch said. “I think it’s important to really educate yourself on something that really belongs to the people, and you know, I think it’s important to respect the fallen, especially when there was no reason for them to die.”

Christopher Kent, a Kent State graduate and former May 4th Task Force member, said he has been coming to the vigil for 40 years. To Kent, May 4 is something to remind people to not repeat the past. 

“For those who can’t remember the past, they’re destined to fail in the future,” Kent said. “You can’t let government take over when it’s not necessary.”

Schwartz Mrazek said it means a lot to her that people continue to come to the vigil each year to remember. 

“As years go by, it gets even more and more important because people who lived it are no longer with us, and we have to be able to carry on the legacy,” Schwartz Mrazek said. 

James Chojnacki was a student at Kent State on May 4,1970. He said coming back to Kent State for the vigil brings up mixed emotions. 

“I was right out there in that field that day, and they missed me,” Chojnacki said. 

He hopes people will continue to educate themselves on what happened on May 4 so history does not repeat itself.

“I think it was such a horrendous thing, premeditated and no justice. No peace, no justice.”

Molly Heideman is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].