Peace Blog #2 for February
It was a typical spring day on campus. I was walking back to my dorm after my last class of the day. I saw groups of people assembling near Williams Hall. They were setting up for some kind of speakers. It wasn’t anything unusual; there was usually something going on outside on the lawns at BGSU in the springtime. As I walked past the Student Union getting ready to head to my dorm, a young man ran up to me with a handful of flyers in his hand. I don’t remember the exact words but it said something like “Kent State Shootings. Four students murdered by the Ohio National Guard. Many others injured”
I took a flyer with me and hurried back to the dorm to see if my roommate had heard the news. In the hallways, students were all talking and some were crying. My roommate and I headed back to main campus to see what was happening. The shooting had happened in the early afternoon hours of May 4, 1970. By late afternoon the entire campus knew. My roommate and I sat down on the grass where most of the students seemed to be converging. It was spur-of-the-moment stuff. No one knew for sure what had happened. News didn’t travel as quickly in the 70’s as it does now. Kids were listening to radios trying to hear the latest updates. There were sporadic announcements by a group of students who had organized and brought a microphone and speakers outside of Williams Hall. Professors and campus security were also present probably wondering what would happen next. I’m sure there were impromptu speeches given but most of us just sat around on the grass trying to make sense of what was going on. Kent State was a mere 2 and a half hours from our campus. There was a sense of chaos and fear surrounding our usually serene campus. An announcement was made later that evening that a candlelight vigil march would be held. Students, faculty, community members were all invited to walk through Bowling Green in memory of the students who had been killed.
When we got back to the dorm, our phone was ringing. My roommate’s Mother was coming to pick her up. She thought it wasn’t safe to be at school. Many colleges cancelled classes for the next day, but BGSU decided to hold class as usual. Protests and picket lines were rumored and there was a lot of student protest about classes. Finally, President Jerome cancelled classes. Students were urged to attend meetings about the shootings. Non Violent protests were supported by most Rumors were rampant. My mom called and said they had heard BG students had formed a human chain and shut down all lanes of Interstate 75 outside of town. She warned me of getting involved in crazy behavior like that. She wanted to know if I was coming home. I stayed.
I marched the next evening in the candlelight march along with 7000 others. It was like nothing I had ever done before. Someone had very well-organized the entire event. Everyone had candles to hold. The march was totally silent as I recall. I don’t remember if there was any singing but I do remember the quietness of the event.
There was never any real resolution to what happened at Kent State. No one was punished. No one really took responsibility for what happened. It’s hard to imagine something like this happening on today’s campuses. Because it was a few members of the Ohio National Guard who used their weapons, It’s not really considered a school shooting as we think of today. But who is to know if maybe there wasn’t just one guardsman who had some issues and decided to teach someone a lesson or just over reacted to a situation. When peaceful protests end in violence, you begin to wonder what it all means.
This incident was so disturbing to my generation for that very reason. The protests were anti-war, anti-violence in purpose and in nature. So when they ended in tragedy, we were stunned and even more determined to living in a peaceful world. Music of the times helped us cope.
Peace to you all.