Many remember May 4 in different ways

Nancy Hopkins

Most people can remember where they were on Sept. 11, and some can remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was shot. But others will never forget what they were doing Monday, May 4, 1970.

For Matthew McManus, a member of the National Guard, it’s a day he will never forget.

He said it is a painful subject.

“It was a military operation, and we were following orders,” he said.

McManus was on trial for the military orders he followed.

The guard, who was 26 years old at the time, said he has not returned to Kent State since his involvement in the trial.

“For me to go to that site … “ he said hesitating. “I cannot bring myself to go back there.

“I just want you to remember that I was in charge of 30 men in that line,” he said. “But if we were to go see it, I could see things that you couldn’t see and hear things that you couldn’t hear in my mind, and I don’t really care to relive that.”

Alan Canfora will never forget May 4, 1970, but for different reasons.

“I was waving the black flag, facing the guard with the guardsmen aiming exactly in my direction. I stood my ground,” he said recalling his infamous Life magazine photograph. “There was a dozen guardsmen around me, kneeling and aiming, fingers on their triggers. I think it’s safe to say my life was in danger.”

Soon after, at 12:24 p.m., 28 Ohio National Guard shot 67 times for 13 seconds at unarmed Kent State students killing four and wounding nine others, including Canfora who was shot in the right wrist.

To commemorate the events of May 1970, the May 4 Memorial Committee recommended a permanent memorial be built in late 1984.

The Committee announced a national design competition and secured $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts in order to make it possible.

“We are asking the designer to design a site of peace and reflection and learning so that people can go there and contemplate the events of those times. This is a sincere and serious effort to educate generations to come,” President Michael Schwartz said at that time.

What followed would add new controversy to Kent State.

According to the May 4 Archives, 698 memorial deigns were submitted, making it the second largest design competition in American history.

Bruno Ast, a Chicago architect, won the competition after university officials said they disqualified the original winner because of a required United States citizenship.

The American Legion was quick to denounce the planned $1.3 million May 4 Memorial as a “memorial to terrorists.” In response, Kent State administrators said they would pursue what Canfora called a “half-hearted” fundraising campaign with no professional fundraising committee, even though they did hire a firm and raise $6 million for the Fashion Museum and Fashion Design School a few years earlier.

Finally, in late 1988, the university said the Memorial would be reduced by 93 percent to a miniature $100,000 portion of the original design.

Ast’s original paving pattern with 13 mirror-polished black granite discs, set into the pavement, echoed by 13 solid granite pylons, would have to wait. Instead, the Memorial is what university officials said they wanted — a structure that neither praises nor blames anyone, but encourages people to remember the events on May 4.

On May 4, 1990, the Memorial was dedicated. Ast said he still is proud of the five polished black granite disks (one for each student killed and one to represent the many victims of the event) leading to four free-standing pylons. He said he hopes one day “an angel” will donate the money to finish his design.

“It is my hope that this memorial will provide visitors with an opportunity to rekindle memories of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder; to reflect on the impact of these events beyond the Kent State campus. We learn from the past with hope for the future,” he said at the unveiling.

Current Kent State President Carol Cartwright reiterated Ast’s intentions.

“I find (the memorial) to be very appropriate in the emotions it brings out,” she said. Cartwright said the long-term impact and reflection achieves the university’s purposes effectively.

However, Canfora’s hope that Cartwright will re-open the fund raising and construction process to assure full construction of the Memorial seems unlikely.

“We are not seeking those funds,” Cartwright said. “The Memorial is done.” She added she would rather see something more programmatic and not physical spaces.

So now Canfora continues to wait.

“We need to find the right person, at the right time, with the right amount of money, and the Memorial would be done,” he said. Canfora uses the Washington Monument to help support his claim.

“The Washington Monument had controversy. It took over 40 years to build,” he said of the 25-year hiatus in the construction. “It’s a good example. The Memorial can still be finished.”

Carole Barbato, an associate professor of communication studies at the Kent State East Liverpool campus said she would like the Memorial to be finished as well. Barbato, a student in 1970, said she was friends with slain students Scheuer and Schroeder.

“The university’s position, and folks involved in the actual shooting, differ positions,” she said. “People still, 35 years later, have animosity of Kent State because of what happened May 4, 1970.”

Canfora’s animosity goes much further.

“I did not choose my place in U.S. history,” he said. “I cannot walk away from my duty to the doomed youth who suffered and died in Vietnam, at Kent State and elsewhere.”

For others, like the guardsman, the anger in the form of pain will never go away.

“I am in favor of the Memorial, but I can’t go back,” McManus said. “Usually this time of year, I try to get lost.”

Contact news correspondent Nancy Hopkins at [email protected].