Shortly before , students gathered in the commons area of KentStateUniversity (Payne ?Chronology?). There were more than a thousand students in the area at the time, but approximately 200 were the ?hard-core demonstrators,? (Bevington). Because these students were protesting the National Guard, Leroy Satrom, mayor of Kent, declared a state of emergency. This state of emergency was called a few days ago due to the massive demonstration. The demonstration spilled from the campus into the streets of Kent. Mayor Satrom asked the Governor to send the National Guard, who arrived 3 days ago when the ROTC building was burned.
Since it was early afternoon, many students at KentState were passing through the commons area on their way to class. The guard mistakenly thought that all the students in the area were there for the rally. As soon as the rally began, General Canterbury of the National Guard ordered the crowd to disperse. The crowd became angry and agitated at the announcement and responded by throwing rocks (Payne ?Chronology?). The group of students split into three groups: one stayed near the commons, some went closer to the dorms, and the others went over the hill (Bevington). The guard then followed that third group and marched to a football practice field on the other side of the hill (Payne ?Chronology?). The group that went over the hill went to a parking lot; this group of students was the ?hard-core demonstrators,? (Bevington). Rocks and tear gas were thrown back and forth by the two parties. About ten minutes later the Guard decided to march back to the commons area; when they reached the top of the hill, a dozen or so soldiers turned and aimed at the students in the parking lot. The soldiers fired more than 60 shots in 13 seconds; they left four dead and nine wounded (Payne ?Chronology?).
Alan Canfora was a protestor who was wounded yesterday at KentState. Earlier that day, before leaving for the rally he made two black protest flags to symbolize his dark mood of despair and anger. At this time there were roughly 1200 guardsmen either on campus or nearby in the city of Kent.
As Alan left his apartment, he walked past many of the members of the Guard. He got to the commons area at around where he met up with several fellow protestors. When the rally began, the National Guard, who attacked the peaceful protesters, immediately halted the rally.
Alan and the other protesters ran over a hill and into a parking lot; they were pursued by the soldiers. The guardsmen stayed on the practice field for approximately ten minutes.
Throughout these ten minutes a standoff ensued. Rocks were launched back and forth, but any injury was futile because there was a distance of more than 300 feet between the parties. A small group of students walked a little bit closer to the squad and continued shouting their anti-war and anti- National Guard hatred.
About twelve soldiers kneeled and aimed at Alan and the other demonstrators. None fired; they just stayed there, and in a few minutes all the soldiers regrouped and marched up the hill. When they reached the crest of the hill, approximately twelve guardsmen turned around, kneeled, and fired a battery of shots from their M-1 rifles.
All the students, including Alan, assumed that the soldiers were firing blanks. Alan quickly learned that it was live ammo when he saw some of his friends ?hit the dirt.? He knew then he needed to get some sort of cover so he ran for the nearest tree, which was in the direct line of fire.
Directly after he reached relative safety, he felt a sharp pain in his wrist. It was then he realized he had been wounded. During the gunfire Alan?s roommate, Tom Grace, was shot as well, in the ankle. Alan possibly saved Tom?s life by telling him he needed to stay down.
After the shooting ceased, Alan ran to his friend and comforted him by telling him that the wounds were not too serious, as they were caused by buckshot. Then as Alan was making his way towards the home economics building, he passed Jeff Miller, who had been shot in the head.
Once inside the home economics building, he rinsed his wound, and a female student gave him a towel. He then ran back outside and convinced the nearest driver to take him to the hospital. It was when he reached the hospital that Alan was informed of the four students? deaths and the other injuries.
Once he was treated and released, Alan was reunited with his sister, girlfriend, and other fellow KentState students. Later Alan found out that the gunfire lasted 13 seconds, and roughly 67 shots were fired. He also found out that the shots fired were not buckshot, but actually air rifle ammo. Out of the four killed, both Allison Krause and Jeffery Miller were protesters; the other two; Sandra Scheuer and Bill Schroeder were innocent bystanders. Out of the nine wounded, Dean Kahler was paralyzed and will be in a wheelchair (Canfora).
Letters to the editor:
Dean Kahler writes ? ?I am trying to do now what I was doing in 1970; I am trying to be a peacemaker? He also speaks of forgiveness to those who are still angry about the killings?
(Payne ?The Survivors?).
Valerie Kahler (Dean Kahler?s wife) writes ? ?Dean was never bitter. Ten years doesn't change my perception all that much, the killings at Kent and the wounding of Dean and the others... There simply is no reason for it" (Payne ?The Survivors?).
Ken Cushner (KentState student) writes ? ?? I saw things happen on that day (May 4) and on that campus that should not have happened under any circumstances. I saw four young people killed and nine wounded who were exercising their constitutional right to protest a war in which they did not believe. Their rights to free speech were halted with their lives? (Vadas 155).
President Richard Nixon writes ? ?You know, you see these bums, you know, blowin? up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they
are, burnin? up the books, I mean stormin? about this issue, I mean you name it ? get rid of the war, there?ll be another one? (Vadas 159).
These are two letters received byMr. and Mrs. Schroeder:
- There's nothing better that a dead destructive, riot making communist, and that's what your son was, if not he would have stayed away like a good American would do. Now you know what a goody-goody son you had. They should all be shot, then we'd have a better U.S.A. to live in. Be thankful he is gone, Just another communist.
- I heard you on T.V. and if I were a policeman I would kill a lot more of these kids. Keep your kids home then they do not get in trouble. My boys and girls do not get in trouble. Sure looks bad for you parents. Kids belong in your home, entertain them in your home like we still do here. hope the police and Army kill a lot more kids. It has to be stopped now as it is getting so you can not go out on the street. We do not feel sorry for none of you parents. Keep your kids at home (Payne ?Bill Schroeder?).
Governor James Rhodes says - "They?re worse than Brown Shirts and the Communist element, and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They?re the worst type of people we have in America ... we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent!" - May 3, 1970 (?Civil Rights/ Human Rights?).
Paul Tople (KentState student) says - "When I saw the students in their pools of blood, I said this is it, it's got to stop -- the protests, the war. It's gone too far" (?Civil Rights/ Human Rights?).
KentState Professor Glenn Frank says: "I don't care if you've never listened to anybody before in your life.I am begging you right now, if you don't disperse right now; they're going to move in. It will only be a slaughter. Please, listen to me. Jesus Christ, I don't want to be part of this. Listen to me," (?Civil Rights/ Human Rights?).
Bob Carpenter (KentState student) says -"It was like -- oh my God, I can't believe it. So everybody came out and there were kids lying on the ground, running all over the place,? I was in Vietnam twice before. I didn't have the fear that I had on this campus -- helicopters swooping down, tear gas, bullets. It was a scary thing. I get goosebumps talking about it right at this moment" (?Civil Rights/ Human Rights?).
John Darnell (KentState student) says - "I like to call it murder. I see no justification and no justice" (Civil Rights/ Human Rights?).
KSU Student Spills the Beans:
KSU Tribune:How old were you and what year in college were you in when the shootings happened?
Chuck: ?I was a 20-year-old sophomore at KSU at the time of the shootings? (Bevington).
KSUT: Where were you when the actual shootings occurred?
Chuck: ?I was at Johnson Hall overlooking the Commons when the shots were fired. The Guard had come up the hill and we split in three directions. Some went to theright like me closer to my dorm and some went to the left in front of Taylor Hall and some went back and the Guard followed. I never san a situation wear the Guard was seriously threatened for their lives that would indicate the need for use of deadly force? (Bevington).
KSUT:If anyone, whom do you blame for the shootings?
Chuck: ?I feel all were at fault students, government, and soldiers alike? (Bevington).
KSUT: What is your opinion of the burning of the ROTC building?
Chuck: ?The burning of the ROTC building was wrong and throwing rocks at the fireman was very wrong? (Bevington).
KSUT: Do you think it was set on fire by students?
Chuck: ?I do believe the fire was set by students? (Bevington).
KSUT: Did you know any of the students who were killed or injured?
Chuck: ?No, I did not. I had seen William on campus as he was in my ROTC group when I was enrolled in ROTC before quitting? (Bevington).
KSUT: Did you agree or disagree with the choice of President Nixon to invade Cambodia?
Chuck: ?Mixed emotions on Cambodia. Wanted the war to end and felt from a military standpoint you cannot leave the enemy a sanctuary to escape too, but thiswidened the war and in retrospect did nothing to end the war? (Bevington).
KSUT: Were you involved in any of the rallies and demonstrations that were protesting the invasion of Cambodia?
Chuck: ?Not involved in the definition of the word, but listened out of curiosity? (Bevington).
KSUT: Did/ do you agree with the Viet Nam War?
Chuck: ?I was starting to turn against it, but still felt support for the troops? (Bevington).
KSUT: Do you agree with the speculation that says the National Guard pinpointed and picked out who they were going to shoot at, while they were on the practice football field?
Chuck: ?I feel some of the guard did pinpoint individuals and some did not. I think Jeffrey Miller was in the sights of a couple of them as he had been taunting the Guard during the rally. Some of the Guard did fire over the crowd obviously showing they did not want to shoot anyone, but to scare them into submission? (Bevington).
KSUT:Do you feel it was necessary for the mayor to send a request to the governor asking for the National Guard's assistance?
Chuck: ?I think the matter would have been better handled locally by bringing in the riot police or highway police and not having such a large showing of force. I believe they were better trained to handle such a situation. The Guard was in uniform and looked like they were in the Army. They looked like they represented war and this is what the students were protesting about. The sad part is a lot of the guardsman were no older than the students and had just got off a long and tough teamsters truck strike that had it's violence, so they were already drained prior to being called to KSU? (Bevington).
KSUT: If you could rate the destruction of the city of Kent by the demonstrators, on a scale of 1 - 10; 1 being awful condition and 10 being excellent condition, what would it be?
Chuck: ?I did not see all of the destruction, but broken windows and debris in the streets were to be found. I would rate it a 7 or 8? (Bevington).
KSUT: What did the city look like after the demonstration?
Chuck: ?I don't believe the city incurred any further damaged after the shootings as most of the action had been on the campus grounds and all of us had to get in our cars or find other transportationto our homes? (Bevington).
KSUT: In one of my sources it mentions that more than one professor spoke to the crowd of students and asked them to not rally again directly after the shooting. In my research, I only found one name: Dr. Glenn Frank - do you know of any others?
Chuck: ?I know there were some other campus monitors/marshals were present as well as a number of faculty and student government members who were involved in trying to keep what happened from occurring? (Bevington).
KSUT: Did you know Dr. Frank? If so, how well and what was he like?
Chuck: ?I did not know Dr. Frank personally, but san him on campus a number of times. He was liked by both students and other school faculty members? (Bevington).
KSUT: Do you feel that the shooting could have been avoided? If so, how? If not, why?
Chuck: ?Yes, in retrospectit could have been avoided, but who would have thought it would spiral out of control as it did. I don't feel the Guard should have been called in as stated earlier. I don't think the Guard were ever in mortal danger that would have required the use of deadly force? (Bevington).
KSUT: How did the shootings affect your life at school, your life after graduating, your career? Or did it impact you at all?
Chuck: ?Immediately after the shootings some people thought a lot of us were trouble makers in essence we were stereotyped. I know when I went for employment and they saw I attended KentState I would be asked if I participated in the riots. Obviously, you would watch your answer for fear of not being hired. Then after a few years was not a factor anymore as more and more people began to feel the war was wrong. Like anything in history time seems to heel and I am not asked the question anymore. Also, a lot of Corporate American came out of this era and are in the business mainstream now? (Bevington).
KSUT: What is your most vivid memory about that day?
Chuck: ?Several vivid memories remain. One is returning to campus Sunday night May 3rd and the surreal atmosphere of seeing soldiers, jeeps, rifles, trucks, and army helicopters flying around. I remember seeing some of my friends out that night dancing in the searchlights of the helicopters almost like it was a party not knowing what lay ahead the next day. I remember Dr. Frank talking, pleading, begging us not to charge the Guard. He was actually sobbing and I am sure he saved lives that day? (Bevington).
KSUT: How did you react to the shootings?
Chuck: ?Very enraged over what happened. I think a lot of us lost our logical prospective after the shootings and were not thinking straight. Again, thank God for Dr. Frank who most likely prevented even more tragedy from occurring? (Bevington).
KSUT:Can you tell me anything about what led up to the war in Viet Nam?
Chuck: ?In an attempt to provide some insight to perhaps the mindset of students leading up to the shootings, but by no means is this to say the vast majority of students felt the same way, I want to mention some events occurring during the late 60s. The 60s were very turbulent and changing times for people especially it's youth. I felt I was raised very red, white, and blue. I remember when I went to KSU for two days for orientation in August 1968. We had to get our pictures for our student ID when I ran into a girl who tried to educate me on the wrongs of the Vietnam War. This was perhaps the first time I ran into someone who was opposed to the war. A lot of things she said to me that day I dismissed as her being brainwashed when perhaps is was me who was brainwashed. She explained to me how Ho Chi Minh had been to the U.S. to gain our support to get the French out of Vietnam. She said Ho Chi Minh even said he did not want to go to the Reds (China & Russia) as he felt he would not be able to get them out later. The US turned him away because at the time we did not want to antagonize the French as we were trying to get NATO formed and wanted their support. I hate to say it, but I often wonder if we had aided Ho Chi Minh if the entire war would have been averted and over 50,000 U.S. serviceman's lives saved let alone the wounded. Anyhow, I later found out this was a true statement. It is ironic how while we supported the French colony approach then and the French have thumbed their nose at the U.S. over the decades since.?
?I think issues like this and many more to follow started to put a question in our minds as far as feeling 'my country right or wrong' being the slogan. Most students are at a very rebellious each at the time they attend college. (One should not forget a lot of members of the National Guard who were on the KSU campus those fateful days in May were the same age as the students.) A lot of changes were occurring some good and some not so good and this resulted in some confusion. The proverbial pot was stirring by the events taking place in the world. I think youth always feels they can change things for the good and the Vietnam War was starting to wear on everyone from frustration of not being able to win the war to more and more people feeling we should not be there. Our troops should never had endured the criticism they received when returning home, but a lot of people failed to realize this and took their frustrations out on the troops instead of the government? (Bevington). You may know that your great uncle Paul served in Vietnam. Paul even signed up for a second tour so your great uncle John would not have to go to Vietnam when he was in the Army. We also were experiencing social unrest especially with the minority population and civil riots were occurring with cities on fire. Robert Kennedy and Rev. Luther King were both killed in the late 60's. There were even some analyst stated a race war may occur. These seeds of discontent paved the way for tragic events such as KSU to occur. I don't want to say this is the cause and effect scenario, but I do feel it play a role especially as the war continued to go on? (Bevington).