Freshly blooming trees rustled in the wind as a crowd of more than 150 people gathered in the Student Commons in the late evening on May 3 to participate in the May 4 Candlelight Vigil, chatting and embracing under a light fall of rain. As the group began its walk across Kent State’s campus, the rain slowed to a gentle drizzle then stopped, leaving the marchers’ footsteps to echo against the damp concrete.
The cool spring breeze was sometimes enough to blow out some of the dozens of candles held by participants of the vigil, but someone was always close by with a lighter to reignite the flame.
The group walked through and across front campus along East Main Street – cars honked and passersby nodded solemnly in recognition of their purpose. Past the Center for the Performing Arts and around to Taylor Hall’s parking lot, the crowd of marchers ended their trek at the site of the memorial.
They gathered around the memorial tree, led in prayer and somber silence. Flickering candles were placed at the base of the memorial, and the group dispersed, leaving volunteers at their posts at the markers for Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder.
Every thirty minutes through the long cold night, a new volunteer would take their place at the markers, holding a candle in memory of the students lost. As the morning sun broke through gray skies, there they remained, and still as the sun rose to hide behind the clouds.
Late morning saw the return of crowds to Blanket Hill as hundreds gathered on the Student Commons for the annual commemoration. The voices of the Kent State Chorale rang strong as they sang; “Find the cost of freedom, Buried in the ground, Mother Earth will swallow you, Lay your body down.”
The weight of current circumstance was not lost on the May 4 commemorators – many donned pins of the Ukrainian flag, the Black power fist and women’s rights symbols.
“Now’s the time to stand up and use our voices,” said May 4 Task Force member and graduate student Tiera Moore. “We must continue the tradition of advocacy that was started on these very grounds. Kent State students have changed and will continue to change the country for the better.”
Also taking the stage was keynote speaker presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Meacham. He echoed Moore’s sentiments, voice booming through the speakers.
“We need this story now,” Meacham urged the crowd. “We need your story now. For that long ago May all too tragically remains urgently relevant.”
His words were met with rousing applause and a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance.
Old friends embraced in bittersweet joy, sharing laughter and basking in earnest silence as birds chirped and wind rustled the trees on Blanket Hill.
Chris Abreu is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]
Maddy Haberberger is Social Media Manager. Contact her at [email protected]