Friday, May 3, 2019

unnecessary, unwarranted, inexcusable

This is my fourth time in Kent, Ohio.   Today is the second time I came up for the midnight candle vigil.  And twice before I was here to do research in the May 4th Special Collections part of the Kent State library.

It is a few hours before the vigil. I am here in my nondescript motel room waiting for the hours to pass before the vigil starts.  Starting my evening at midnight or thereabouts went out with my sophomore year in college. But I will make it.

When I was here last the vigil began near the May 4th memorial exhibit. My recollection is that they told all to get there at 11, but the candles did not start lighting up for an hour or so.  And then we walked around the campus--maybe two hundred of us carrying candles. We ended up in the Prentice Hall parking lot where Jeff Miller, William Schroeder, Sandy Scheuer, and Allison Krause were killed.  When all arrived at the lot, there were some prayers and a ceremony. Then someone representing each slain student stood in the "graves"--the places in the lot where the students fell--all night long.

I went to the site of the killings earlier today.  As I walked up the hill from where Jeff Miller was shot, to where the Guardsmen opened fire, I got nauseous in a way that I don't get nauseous. It started just about where my belly button is and moved up towards my solar plexus.  It was a strange sensation. I don't know if I felt that way the other times I have been here.  I remember feeling something similar after 9-11, and then after the marathon bombing--but this was more acute.

I noticed some folks about my vintage milling around the area--and a tv reporter had set up for a shot of where the vigil will begin.

I've studied what happened, much more than the average bear.  The national guard opened fire into a crowd.  Jeff Miller was the closest of the four to the shooters. He was 270 feet away.  What kind of threat could he pose from nearly the length of a football field? William Schroeder was shot in the back. Sandy Scheuer was walking to class.

Last time I was here I got to talk with Dean Kahler for a short time. Dean Kahler was paralyzed for life by a gun shot that day.  He had just had a birthday and was a transfer to Kent. Hardly a political agitator, he had come to observe what was going on.  His birthday present was a wheel chair for life. Eight other students were injured that day.

It sounds strange to write that I am looking forward to walking with the candle this evening, and then speaking for a spell with others who are similarly observing this tragedy--but I am.  Tomorrow there will be a service at noon which, when I was here last, featured a niece of Allison Krause.  Each student who was killed has someone make some comments for her or him.  The one I remember most was the niece.   There was a time limit on the talks and when her limit was up she essentially gave the finger to the coordinator, and just kept on. Nobody listening had any objection.

The Scranton Commission that investigated the shootings called them unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable. Yet the shooters were essentially exonerated.

49 years ago tomorrow.

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