Candles burn in memory of lives lost

Melissa Dilley

A square glass lantern lights the grass around the Victory Bell. Over the next 30 minutes, the single flame turns into hundreds of others that illuminate a path from Main Street to Blanket Hill.

The flames are carried in silence to the Prentice Hall parking lot, where they are laid under the first dedicated memorial to the four students who died on May 4, 1970.

Those carrying the candles in disposable cups stop along the way only to reignite the flames that are snuffed out by the gentle wind or are at the end of their wicks.

This is the 40th year these candles have been lit for the May 4 vigil.

It has been held on every anniversary since the shootings, but the vigil was first initiated in September 1970 when students returned to Kent State for the first time since the tragedy.

Dean Kahler and others of the nine who were wounded by the Ohio National Guard’s fire led the first procession to remember the four dead students.

The May 4 Task Force hosts the event each year beginning at 11 p.m. on May 3. Co-Chair Nora Rodriquez said the group had 1,000 candles available this year because more people are expected on major anniversaries.

Bob Kahl, who left Kent State just three weeks before the shootings, came to his first vigil on the 30th anniversary in 2000. He said it took him a long time to come back because he was a friend of Jeffrey Miller, who was killed. Kahl felt that if he were there on May 4, things might have been different.

He traveled with his son Bobby from Florida to attend this year’s events. Kahl said students living with today’s political climate could learn a lot by gaining knowledge of what happened then through the commemoration.

“The huge thing is that people should never forget what their government is capable of doing to them and to remember the people who died,” Kahl said. “It’s that simple.”

Others walk every year in remembrance of the events that changed history and of the lives lost.

Alumna Sarah Lund-Goldstein has been involved with the May 4 ceremonies since 1994, when she was a junior. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kent State, she continues to hold a place in her life for the college’s history.

Lund-Goldstein, who was once the co-chair of the May 4 Task Force, brings her four children with her every year. Her daughter Laurel Ellen is named after Allison Krause’s sister, and her son Samuel Jeffrey is named after Miller.

She said there is something about May 4 and its history that “grabs people in” and begs them to learn more about it, which is why the May 4 Task Force and the commemoration still exist so many years after the shooting.

“There’s a real spiritual, almost Zen moment, when you’re standing vigil,” Lund-Goldstein said, describing why she walks in the vigil every year.

Lund-Goldstein and dozens of others don’t plan to stop commemorating after the vigil.

Once the procession of candle holders ends at the Prentice parking lot, one person stands in each of the four memorials dedicated to Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder.

They will stand in for 30-minute increments guarding the memorial until 12:24 p.m. on May 4 — when the shots were fired that changed Kent State and the nation forever.

Senior sociology major Jackie Towne said it took her almost her entire college career to understand why people cared so much about the event.

After taking a class taught by Jerry M. Lewis, who was a professor in 1970 and a witness to the shootings, Towne said she finally understood how something at such a small school, in a town she is so familiar with that it’s almost boring, could make such a big impact on the rest of the world.

After walking through the monuments and standing where the four students stood in 1970, there was no question as to whether she should attend this year’s candlelight vigil.

“America changed because of this,” Towne said. “Why not come out and support the four students who died for change?”

Contact public affairs reporter Melissa Dilley at

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