Opinion: Understanding May 4



Julie Selby

Julie Selby

Julie Selby is a freshman journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

I heard a song on the radio the other day while driving home:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’. / We’re finally on our own. / This summer I hear the drummin’. / Four dead in Ohio.”

If you are into the ‘70s and classic rock, then you know Neil Young is the artist and that this song is about the shooting that erupted in front of Taylor Hall on May 4, 1970, on our own campus of Kent State University.

It was the first time I had heard that song in years, and I finally understood what the lyrics were conveying. It caught me completely off guard, knowing that a song I have heard since my childhood was about the massacre that happened 24 years before I was born. It happened only a few steps away from my dorm. The Kent State shootings were a major turning point in our nation’s history. We were no longer protected by those who had sworn to protect us.

Most of us learned about the shootings in history classes. Most of us merely looked down in respect of the dead, thinking that it is just another horrible tragedy in the United States. But when you see the bullet holes scattered around Taylor Hall, suddenly everything is real. That event did happen, and big fat rifle bullets did pierce the bodies of four young students: Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer.

Those four students were us. They were our friends, acquaintances, roommates, boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, cousins, brothers, sisters; they were Kent State.

Miller and Krause were simply exercising their First Amendment rights, as were the many other students gathered in front of the Victory Bell. Schroeder and Scheuer were walking from class and ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. No student broke a law. No student threatened the lives of the National Guard. No student deserved that fate on May 4.

It truly astounds me that this massacre is still under debate. Did the guards get orders to shoot? Of course they did. They all turned in unison towards the students and they all fired at the same time, just after they huddled together for a second to talk. The National Guard even threatened to start shooting the now-enraged students on the hill in front of the Victory Bell after the initial slaughter, according to an audio clip from the event — and the Guardsmen have the guts to deny they were given orders? That is pathetic. That is cowardly. That is spineless.

For all of those who have not visited the May 4 Visitor Center at Taylor Hall, I strongly urge you all to do so. It is a gateway to the past. It features a video with rare footage and audio depicting all the events that occurred on May 4, 1970. If seeing the bullet lodged in the Don Drumm sculpture does not make murders real for you, hearing all 67 rounds being fired will.