May 4 panel discusses experiences from different perspectives

Meranda Watling

Tim Butz is still angry.

Thirty-five years after May 4, 1970, comments he made to the Stater in 1978 still hold true, he says.

“When my hair is gray and my teeth are falling out, I’m still going to be angry about Vietnam and what happened here at Kent State Univerity on May 4, 1970,” he was quoted saying in the Stater.

“Well, my hair is gray and my teeth aren’t what they used to be, and I’m still angry.”

That was how the “I was there” panel, hosted by the May 4 Task Force, began on Sunday night.

Butz, who was a freshman at the time of the shootings, was one of five panelists who discussed their personal experience at Kent State the weekend of May 4, 1970. Other panelists included Jerry Lewis, Richie Hess, Chuck Ayres and Bob Carpenter. Laura Davis moderated the panel.

The group reflected on the events, starting with the bars closing Friday night.

It brought about an “awakening of an angry, anti-war movement on this campus,” Butz said. “An anti-war movement that had become a little complacent… This invasion of Cambodia just brought it all back into focus for people and it angered them and created a lot of tension and set loose a chain of events that, I won’t say the shooting on May 4 was inevitable, but I think that had the calmer heads prevailed on the part of the administration and government none of it would have happened.”

Bob Carpenter, who was a senior and worked as news director for WKSU at the time, recorded a lot of events that went on that weekend.

After being tear gassed while covering the rally on May 4, he went behind Prentice Hall right before the guards fired. “Tear gas saved my life,” he said.

When he got back to the news station to put out a report, he got a call that said two guardsmen had been killed. He admits to be a source of misinformation that day.

He checked with campus police, the sheriff’s department and the hospital and all three confirmed it.

Of course, it was wrong. Four students had been killed.

“I was not out there. I was not an activist. I wasn’t anything. But to this day, not a day goes by that I don’t remember what happened at Kent State,” Carpenter said.

Richie Hess wasn’t present at the May 4 shootings. After being arrested for a curfew violation the night before, he was on his way to court when he heard a report over the radio about the shootings.

He said what was significant about the events was, “They were willing to kill anyone… Of course they would kill Asian people, of course they would kill people of color, of course they would kill students at Jackson State. What was significant was that we found out for the first time, they would kill white kids….

“The shootings were deliberate, the shootings were meant to set an example,” Hess said.

Chuck Ayres was the average student at Kent State when May 4 happened. He worked as an artist for the Stater and the Akron Beacon Journal. His job in Akron kept him out of the mix over the weekend. But on May 4, he was taking pictures for his photography class and watching the students and guards through his camera lens.

“I thought this is over, this is all over, they must have run out of tear gas because I haven’t seen any for awhile,” Ayres said. “I was still taking pictures, and they started heading up the hill towards the pagoda, and I thought ,‘I wonder what Karen’s doing now?’ I knew she was in the Stater office and I walked in and apparently just as soon as I walked inside the doors the guard turned and fired through the area that I had just been standing in.”

He went back to the Beacon with his film, but they didn’t use any, he drew pictures of what he saw instead.

As faculty marshal Glenn Frank said in a clip that was played Sunday night, “Jesus Christ, I do not want to be a part of this.”

That sums up how many feel about that day. None asked to be a part of May 4, 1970, but 35 years later, none of them has forgotten the impact it left on them.

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].