It’s May 4th — This Is What Really Matters

May the 4th be… Wait! F that! Every news show today is covering the Star Wars meme based upon today’s date, but none mentioned the 50th anniversary of the first occurrence in U.S. history when soldiers fired upon, and killed, college students on campus. May 4, 1970, Kent State in Ohio.

The body of Kent State student Jeffrey Miller lays dead as Mary Ann Vecchio screams in anguish May 4, 1970 (John Filo/AP )

I was a freshman at Archbishop Molloy High School in New York city at the time, and was raised in a conservative household, but the events of this day opened my eyes and changed the way I looked at the world from forever.

The Viet Nam war was a divisive conflict that led to many demonstrations protesting the U.S. involvement. When then President Richard Nixon revealed in 1970 that the U.S. had secretly been bombing sites in neutral Cambodia, protests flared up on college campuses across the country.

o/~… Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming…o/~

Kent State in Ohio was one of those protest sites, and on Friday, May 1, against the war escalation led to the mayor to declare a state of emergency and asking the governor for national guard assistance to disperse the crowd. Saturday, May 2 demonstrators occupied an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) barracks on campus, eventually burning it down. The Guard dispersed them by firing tear gas canisters into the crowd. Sunday, May 3 was quieter as meetings between school, city and state officials produced conflicting information and sightseers added to the assembled crowd, adding to the confusion. Crowds were again dispersed by the National Guard using tear gas.

o/~… We’re finally on our own …o/~

Monday, May 4 was different, Commuter-students returned to camps oblivious to what had occurred over the weekend. The larger crowds, estimated at two thousand, and the belief of a prohibited major demonstration coming at noon, had the National Guardsmen, many of whom were the same age as the students, on edge. Tear gas was met with chants curses and rocks. With fixed bayonets on their rifles the Guard backed the students into an athletic field fenced on three sides. When the Guard retreated the students followed — most of whom kept 60-75 yards from the soldiers.

o/~… This summer I hear the drumming,,,
Four dead in Ohio… o/~

As the students reached the parking lot, the soldiers, perhaps feeling threatened, or maybe as a sign of force, turned and 28 guardsmen fired between 61 and 67 shots in 13 seconds toward the parking lot. Thirteen seconds, thirteen victims — all Kent State students. One 20 yards from the Guard, another 250 yards away. Four dead, nine wounded.

From left to right William Schroeder 19, Allison Krause 19, Jeffrey Miller 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer 20

o/~… Gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down,
should’ve been done long ago…
What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?

How can you run when you know?… o/~

College students, shot, killed and wounded by U.S soldiers, on a college campus. For this high school freshman my world was turned upside-down. From that day forward for the end of the school year. my friends at Archbishop Molloy and I wore black arm-bands in remembrance of the victims of the Kent State Massacre. Every May 4 until graduation we did the same. It changed me in other ways. I went from an unaffiliated supporter of the YAF (Young Americans for Freedom — pro-war) to an unaffiliated supporter of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society, anti-war).

This is what May 4th means to me. Questioning authority, protesting injustices, savoring the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy, and pointing out where those freedoms are denied. I reflect on those events and my life every year on that date. And I think of all of the victims, especially the four that died in somber silence.

o/~… Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own,
This summer I hear the drumming,

Four dead in Ohio, Four dead in Ohio, Four dead in Ohio,
Four dead in Ohio… o/~

May 4 Memorial at Kent State in Ohio

Lyrics: “Ohio” – Crosby, Stills,Nash and Young
Source material:
Check out the enhanced media timeline of May 4 at the middle of this page:

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new (social) media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

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