Coming home from Fort Wayne, after the baptism and the call service I was telling you about, we stopped for the night at a motel in Kent, Ohio. It turns out, that is the location of Kent State University, where 77 National Guardsmen fired on some 2,000 protesters of the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine. As many as three of the fatalities were not even part of the demonstration, either onlookers or students on their way to class, one of whom was in ROTC.
Anyway, Kent State was holding a conference on the event, which marks its 40th anniversary today.
I was a student back then, hardly an activist, but I remember the trauma of it, the thought that our government could kill us. Shocked too that many of our parents said that if we protested we would deserve it.
I know, I know: Both sides were just young adults. The guardsmen, the same age as the privileged college students with their draft deferments, scared to death of the rocks and tear gas canisters that were being thrown at them. Investigators found that 67 shots were fired. Surely they weren’t all aimed to kill, or many more would have died. Those who were shot were from 300-500 feet away from the Guardsmen, but stray bullets go a long ways. Here are more details.
We think America is polarized today, but it was nothing compared to 1970. May the American military never again be unleashed on its own citizens.
The motel we stayed in had a breakfast. There was a guy about my age in a wheel chair. We exchanged pleasantries. In researching this post, I came across his picture. He was one of the wounded, paralyzed when the bullet pierced his spine. He was there for the conference.