Friday, May 04, 2007

May 4th, 1970

Whenever you spend months on end researching a historical event or writing a character, you come to feel a connection to that event and that character. This year I've spent a lot of time researching the Kent State Shootings which took place on May 4th, 1970, on the campus of Kent State in Ohio.

The students on the campus were upset about Nixon's invasion of Cambodia, and had been holding rallies and demonstrations to share their feelings. The mayor of Kent felt that things were getting out of control, and called in the National Guard, with the permission of the Governor of the state. When the Guard arrived, they found the ROTC building on fire, another act of protest.

A rally had been planned for May 4th, but the college banned it. Feeling this was unconstitutional, the students met anyway, to find the Guard present, armed with rifles and bayonets. The students were told to disperse, and they did, going up over a hill from the common area where they had been gathering and down onto the football field. The Guard followed them, their bayonets in position. When the students had gone as far as they could, coming up against the fence of the field, they turned to see the Guard kneeling midway across the field, aiming at them.

Some of the students had gravel in their pockets and threw it at the Guard, demanding that they leave. Other students were upset and crying, trying to disperse as they had been told to do, but unable to. After a few minutes, the Guardsmen stood and walked back up to the top of the hill, but as they reached the crest, they turned and shot into the crowd, a barrage that lasted 13 seconds. Four students were killed, and nine were wounded. One of the slain students was not even present at the rally; she was walking to class, and got caught in the rain of bullets.

There are those who say the Guard feared for their lives and acted appropriately. Then there are those like me who have spent hours researching the situation and say, it was a senseless murder.

To the families of the slain and to the survivors: I'm thinking about you today.


Lynne said...

I remember this incident, but didn't know too much about it at the time. I can still see that famous picture of a young girl on her knees by a body. Thanks for the further information.

Anonymous said...

When I read the date I remembered. I remember it too. I used to sing songs about it. Don't know what you read but if you didn't you should read Kent State Chronicles by James Michner (Not sure how to spell his name.)

Keith Fisher

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Keith,

No, I haven't read that one. Most of my research for that aspect of the book was done on the Internet. I used the Kent State website as well as two websites set up by Alan Canfora, one of the wounded survivors. I also exchanged several e-mails with Alan (that was an honor.)


That picture won a Pulitzer prize. The girl in the photo currently travels around the country to various different schools, etc, telling about that day and what she saw there.

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