Like last year, the weather for today's Stanford House Hostel annual pancake breakfast couldn't have been better. It was sunny and cool but comfortable. I met a group of folks from Cleveland's West Side to eat pancakes, talk, and later go for a hike in the woods.
Looking down from the hostel's second floor, the table on the left is my crew, along with a couple of folks at the table next to it. Unfortunately the event wasn't as crowded as last year, meaning less money to run the hostel.
The drive from Cleveland to the Stanford House takes about 30 minutes. I noticed that after I got off Interstate 77 and drove on curving roads through hills finally beginning to green up after a long winter, I drove more slowly. I slowed down mentally and physically. 40 miles per hour was plenty fast enough.
Driving home I took a slightly different route along Riverview Road. I replaced the Nine Inch Nails in the CD player with some old jazz and cruised along at the speed limit, soaking in "Bye Bye Blackbird."
Never got on the freeway at all. In fact I drove all the way to Parma to visit my mom using regular roads and enjoyed every minute of the trip. Saved gas, too.
It was the Ohio National Guard.
They fired for 13 seconds.
They fired, according to witnesses, 67 rounds of ammunition.
It was 12:25 p.m.
4 students were killed.
Another 9 were wounded.
The students listed on the postcard that I designed and printed while a graduate student at Kent State —for the 25th anniversary of the killings—have only one thing in common: the date of their death:
May 4, 1970.
It's ancient history now, 38 years later, but my memories are still clear. I remember hearing about it while working at the May Company downtown. I was stunned by the news that American soldiers had shot and killed students at Kent State University. I was horrified when one of my co-workers said "They got what they deserved."
It was an ominous and frightening time that's just a paragraph in a history book for today's students, but gives me chills even now as I write about it. The Vietnam war had come home.
I went back to Kent some years back for the annual candlelight vigil. It was strange, walking quietly from the Commons where students had gathered in 1970 to the parking lot below Taylor Hall where the students had died. This time the police were on our side, blue and red lights flashing, stopping traffic as we crossed city streets. I'm not sure if the students were on our side. Many stood on their porches or across the street, watching.
When we got to Taylor Hall I stood and held a candle at the exact spot where a student about my age had died in 1970, his blood soaking the asphalt of the parking lot. It seemed a tragedy and a waste then. Still does.