The Digital Journalist

Pat     Hear the Oral History in RealAudio 

My first name is Pat. On May 4th, 1970, I was twenty years old. And I was from Tallmadge, Ohio. I was here that morning to attend a rally, and I -- I thought there would be some kind of danger involved, because I saw soldiers on the campus. I didn't know what, really, what kind of danger I was in at the time. When the order came for the rally to disperse and people were still remaining down in the area of the commons, I thought, "This is not a good place for me to be." And I went up the hill, and into the building. I found a corner classroom in Taylor Hall. There were about eight or nine other students with me, in the room. And when we saw the soldiers facing the crowd, it occured to me, that those guns were loaded. And then we heard the fire, from the guns, and saw people being shot, and nobody could believe it, that it happened. And, we were watching people run, and it was like watching a film, because we were safe, and on a second floor -- or a third floor of the building, and watching out the windows.  

It was like -- it was incredible. It just was like -- no other event in my life that I can remember that was so -- It was like, just -- a moment that kind of hangs there still, you know, that, when you think about what went on, and where you could have been, and where you were. It was just a very emotional time, and I still remember how angry I was that ambulances weren't -- weren't dispatched to the scene faster. And that things weren't being handled as quickly as I would have liked. And I remember that someone was out there, and had cleaned up the blood out of the parking lot, before we even got outside the building. That was the first thing that was done, was the cleaning up. And it was very -- it was a very enlightening experience to see which things were taken care of, it seemed to me at the time, which things got taken care of first, whether it was the people, or whether it was the buildings. And it gave me a -- a new outlook on the rest of the way that I look at things that happen in America, and in this country. And I hope that people will remember that life is more important than buildings. The way things look is not as important as the way things are.  

Mary     Hear the Oral History in RealAudio 

My name is Mary, I'm thirty nine years old. On May 4th, 1970, I had gotten out of class and gone home, which was right outside of Kent, with my father, who is a professor at the university. We had gone home for lunch, and we were right by -- right around Bowman Hall, when we happened to turn the radio on, and found out that there had been shooting. And we could not believe it. It was just like, "No, this isn't true." It was like, "The National Guard is doing something, but there is no way they could have killed people, college students." And we were extremely concerned, not only because of anyone who might get shot, but my brother was at the rally on campus at the time. And so, we parked the car and we tried to go on campus. They would not allow me on campus, but my father did make it to campus.  

But, after that, the thing I can remember is that they cleared Kent out in no time. They brought buses in, they bused all the students who were out of town, they took them to either bus depots, where they could get a bus home. And it was like within -- to me it seemed like a day, it's like Kent, Ohio didn't even exist. It was like a complete ghost town. The National Guard were camped where the old stadium was, and it was like, "This is how it must feel to people who are in war." I mean, they had their tents up, they had their equipment, and all the National Guard trucks. And knowing the town was like under martial law, you felt absolutely no freedom. Coming in to Kent, they would stop you, and they would search your car. For weapons, for whatever. And it was like totally unbelievable to us, that this was happening in our town, at Kent State University.  

That same night, when my brother got home with his friends, his one friend was right beside one of the students that was killed, and was attempting, with other people, to try and save that person. And they all knew that it was like -- there was no way that this person was going to live. And I know that my friend that went through this, went through years of paranoia, went through years of anxiety attacks, and even to this day, is not real trusting of anything or anyone. And I think that a lot of people that experienced May 4th, have those same kind of feelings of not being able to trust. Politically, or any other way for that matter. It was a really, really horrible time. Even today, you still can't believe that on a college campus, where parents send their children for an education -- it's really hard to believe that they're at home, thinking their children are safe, and that the University is protecting them. And then they receive a phone call saying, "I'm sorry that your child was killed by a National Guard person." And I think that this never would have happened had it not been for Rhodes, I think he really sort of pushed the event. And the general who was in charge, even to this day, he still thinks that he did right. And I really think that the students, even though some were throwing stones, it's like, they weren't going to kill these people, they weren't going to kill the National Guard. They were just saying, "Get off of our campus, we're demonstrating against the war. You have no right to be here." I mean, there is supposed to be freedom of speech in America. And -- and they were telling us by being there, that -- that there wasn't.  

And I'm aware that there was trouble downtown the night before, but, I know then that their rifles were loaded with rubber bullets. Nobody ever thought that they would have live ammunition on a college campus. And so I really think that these -- the people who were there at the rally, actually demonstrating, just never even imagined that these guns were loaded and lethal. And so they -- they were protesting, and what that got them was death. And even though some of the four were not actually there protesting, its like they had to suffer the consequences of the decisions that were made by the higher ups.  

I am of the belief that May 4th should always be remembered. There should always be a memorial service every year, from here to eternity. Because people should not ever forget the lesson that we should learn from May 4th. Just as they should never forget what we need to remember from Vietnam, from World War II, from World War I, from the Civil War. It should always be in peoples minds, that these kind of things hopefully will never, ever happen again. All power to the people.  

John Grays 

Hello. My name is John Grays, and my age is twenty four. I am currently a student, a staff member, and a member of the National Guard, in the 107th armored calvary. And I feel that yes, this was a -- quite a disgrace to the National Guard, to the Army; they shouldn't have done what they did. I know from personal experience that, most of the members of the guard don't know what they are doing. And, if one of them would shoot, everyone would follow, because that's the thing to do. And I feel that there was a grave misjustice done on this day. 


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