It was forty years ago today that tragedy fell upon the sleepy northeastern Ohio campus known as Kent State University. By the end of that day, four students lay dead, with several others having received gun wounds. Their injuries came not at the hands of terrorists or renegade gunmen, but from the Ohio National Guard.
I was not yet born when the Kent State shootings happened but, in some small way, I do feel a connection to what happened on May 4, 1970. Having served as a campus minister at Kent State for six years, I've spend a lot of time on the campus. In fact I proposed to my wife on campus not too far from where the shootings took place. Even though the deaths of Jeff Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder happened forty years ago, the tragedy in which their lives were taken still casts a pall over the campus.
When I moved to Kent, Ohio in 1996, the university was still in the processing of forming its identity in the wake of the shootings. On one hand the school sought to distance itself from the killings; on the other hand, it embraced its place in American history. Having become a symbol for the Vietnam war protest movement, at one point the school dropped "State" from its name and changed the logo in an attempt to form a new identity. In time, though, the name "Kent State" was welcomed back and it seems like the campus and its surrounding community has somewhat come to grips with what happened there.
For a look back at what happened and some of the details on May 4th, USA Today has a nice article here and a picture gallery here. For those that are part of the Kent State community, the shootings will always remain a part of the fabric of the university. But I hope that as the years continue to pass that the anger of the past will give way to forgiveness, healing and restoration.
* The iconic photo included here was taken by then-Kent State student John Filo.