Campus commemorates 42nd anniversary of May 4 shootings

Christina Suttles

The victory bell silences as students, faculty members and guests speak with affliction in their voices — commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the May 4 shootings, otherwise known as the Kent State massacre.

The bell had been rung 15 times; 4 for the fallen students, 9 for those wounded and 2 for the students killed at Jackson State University in Jackson Mississippi two weeks later.

The Kent State Commons were laced with a community of people who felt personally connected to the historical tragedy that many claim Monday afternoon in 1970.

This speakers, who came from all walks of life to come together for this remembrance ceremony, remained faithful to this year’s theme: “Don’t Give Up The Fight!”

From acapella versions of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” to verses of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the mood was contagiously astute.

The events were kicked off with a traditional reading of the chronology of events that led up to the shootings, beginning with May 1 and ending with May 4.

Many speakers shared a common sentiment: To explore why this tragedy happened in a quest for truth and closure for the families of the affected students.

Beth Vild, a former Kent State student, spoke on behalf of Allison Krause, one of those killed on May 4. She read aloud a letter, a plea perhaps, written by Allison’s sister, Laura, to President Obama in an attempt to reopen the Kent State case.

“In September of 1969,” Vild read from the letter, “ My big sister went away to college. A beautiful, smart, funny, loving, freshman enrolled in Kent State University’s Honors college, Allison was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Barry, and popular on campus. Allison had a special quality nearly impossible to describe, a compassion. On April 23, 1970 we celebrated Allisons 19th birthday in Kent, Ohio, We went out for dinner. That was the last time any of us saw Allison alive.”

Next Bryan Staul, junior political science major and president of the College Democrats, spoke in memoriam of Jeffrey Miller.

“Jeffrey Miller wasn’t a student (of Kent State) originally, Staul said with conviction. “He was a student of Michigan State and was frustrated there because he saw wrong in the world. He saw what he viewed as illegal action in Laos and Cambodia and he heard of Kent State and he heard of the political awareness; the compassion, and he came here. And he died here.”

Staul said that this generation, his generation, failed to pick up the torch that the previous generation of social advocates had passed and that this was something of a disappointment to him.

Sandra Scheuer was commemorated by a dear friend, who shared his experiences with her. He said that the two used to tell jokes in the cafeteria; playfully mocking the food. His voice cracked and his eyes filled with tears when he mentioned that Sandra had not been actively participating in the protest, but simply walking to class. Sandra, he said, was going to be a gifted speech therapist.

“I have a son who is 8-years-old and he has some speech therapy problems, he said. “(Sandra) used help high school kids with speech impediments so whenever I go to these speech therapy classes with my son I think about what would she be like now? Where would she be living?”

Jim Mueller honored William Schroeder by ardently insisting that the truth about who called the order to open fire on students in 1970 and the reasoning be made available. He said the only way to truly honor the students who were lost is to take a look at the evidence that there was a “sinister agenda of the day.” The May 4 Visitors Center, he said, will stand in stark contrast to what he believes is an attempted cover up by the Justice Department.

“This fall the May 4 visitor center will open, committed to telling the truth about Kent State’s most tragic day,” he said.

Sandford “Sandy” Rosen, attorney for families and victims in 1977 one of the keynote speakers, stressed the importance of social activism and focused on how far we have come in terms of exercising rights. He said that the Occupy movement is a prime example of why these students’ deaths were not in vain; that the way police are trained to deal with these demonstrations has changed positively as a result of May 4.

“From what I have seen, no deadly force has been used on the Occupy protesters yet. Now, this isn’t’ to say that force hasn’t been used, but not deadly force.”

He spoke briefly about his jewish heritage and his family’s experiences with the Russian Czar, Hitler and injustice. He said it was extraordinarily tragic that 3 out of the 4 students killed were of jewish descent and that, “for jews, this was a strange and special turn of events for people whose parents or grandparents were victims … of Hitler’s final solution.”

Rosen said that when he took on the appeals case in 1977, he was told it was hopeless. One few times he has openly wept, he admitted, was when the victims affected by the tragedy accepted a settlement for their distress, due to the trauma of ending a struggle that he had fought so diligently to win, even in the face of countless adversity.

Joe Cullum, a witness to the events, and Joe Lewis, one of the injured students, both shared their experiences of the events and called for a continued effort on the part of all individuals to keep advocacy alive.