Four Dead in Ohio: 1970


If you weren’t alive or aware of the world on May 5, 1970, this probably won’t mean much.

And, it was a different time. That’s a trite way to put it, but it’s all I can think to say. But the screaming headlines around the world the next day about the killings at Kent State by the Ohio National Guard shocked me to my innocent, Midwestern, trusting core. I suppose a similar impact would be for those who remember 9/11 as the traumatic event of their lifetime.

The anti-Vietnam protests had been raging on campuses and city streets for a couple of years by then, but they all seemed distant to me. And on my Ohio college campus, the protests still seemed like slightly goofy college hijinks, under a haze of pot smoke and illusion that we were still protected. A big party with some screaming and angst and sex-drugs-and-rock’nroll.

But the morning after Kent State, something changed in me, and in the country. That was when kids like me, raised on stories of the heroic WWII generation, learned that our government wasn’t just a slightly buffoonish distant bunch of older white guys. No, Kent State told us that those distant white guys were willing to kill us to keep us quiet. That’s when the country really started to turn against the war, still two years from it’s sad, bloody end.

“We understand our lives backwards, but must live it forward.”  — Søren Kierkegaard

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4 Replies to “Four Dead in Ohio: 1970”

  1. What a truly disturbing and rattling of your very foundation.
    The other day, I was reminded of the school shootings at an Elementary School that happened when my kids were in school. I have to ask them if they have memories of those school shootings. Can you imagine what you would have thought had school shootings started for you in Elementary School? Perhaps though, the media coverage in the 70’s was grand and news was not entertainment and fodder for future political positioning. A decade ago though, I was already aware to police the television because horrible things morphed into monsterous messes instead of facts and background to understand a problem. Both cases though are heartbreaking.

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    1. They are. And I feel the Kent State unrest had its roots in the JFK assassination seven years before, along with RFK’s and MLK’s killings. I remember feeling very much that things were spinning in dark ways.

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