May 4: a recognition


The plaque commemorating the May 4 Kent State shooting finally revealed (Matthew Sidewater / The RamPage)

Matthew Sidewater

I visited Kent State University on May 4, 2018. Forty-eight years prior to that date, four unarmed student protesters were shot and killed there by the National Guard. When I visited, it was a normal day. The sky was clear and the birds sang, but I soon learned of a tragedy that would change my life forever. The sky darkened ominously to reflect the tragedy, and I soon learned why.

A dark day for a somber commemoration (Matthew Sidewater / The RamPage)

On May 4, 1970, Kent State University students attended a protest rally against the Vietnam War on their campus. The students chanted mantras such as “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your f****** war!” The Ohio National Guard soon arrived to quell the protest, and the once peaceful protest turned violent. The chanting brought the National Guard, and the students yelled “Pigs off campus!” Soon after, the National Guard opened fire, killing four Kent State students: Allison Kane, Sandra Scheuer, Jeffrey Miller and William Schroeder. Coincidentally, Kane, Scheuer and Miller were all Jewish. The tragedy served as a huge blow to the nation. Famous journalist Dan Rather covered the event.

A field stained with the memory of bloodshed (Matthew Sidewater / The RamPage)
The National Guard fighting the Kent State students with tear gas on May 4, 1970 (PsySR Blog)

On May 4, 2018, Kent State unveiled the plaque designating the May 4 Site, made up of 17 acres, a national landmark. The plaque was unveiled by University President Beverly Warren, Lawrence Pollock (Chair of the 2017 Board of Trustees), Lisa Petit (representative for the Cuyahoga National Park), and Amber Gerdeman (May 4 Task Force  President) in Taylor Hall, a building on campus. The process of the May 4 site gaining National Landmark status took 11 years to complete. According to Kent State’s website, “Kent State President Beverly J. Warren; Lawrence Pollock, chair of the Kent State University Board of Trustees; and Todd Diacon, Kent State’s executive vice president and provost, provided remarks at the ceremony.” Former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste also attended the event. On the shooting’s 20th anniversary, he apologized for the horrible atrocity. 

One of the four sites established to commemorate each of the four students (Matthew Sidewater / The Weber School)

The university’s Hillel also commemorated the deaths of these students, creating small sites to memorialize them. Students could place stones to mark that they had visited. The reason behind these burial sites is because three out of the four dead students were Jewish and they wanted to make sure the university remembered them.

A sign placed by the Hillel at the grave markers informing students about what the markers and stones are for (Matthew Sidewater / The RamPage)

Dan Rather came back to Kent State and shared his thoughts on the shooting with the press, which is fitting seeing as he covered it all those years ago. This horrible tragedy has finally been properly commemorated, and I hope this school shooting is the last of its kind.