Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kent State

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Kent State shootings, which like Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, is one of those things that I've known about for years without knowing anything about it.  We just finished reorganizing our kitchen in honor of our new roommates, who moved in last weekend and needed a place to put their noodles and nutmeg, and as I stood at the sink washing out about thirty empty spice bottles that are destined at some point to be reused to hold herbal tinctures or lotions, I heard Ms. Goodman interviewing Alan Canfora, one of the students who was hit by live ammunition when the National Guard opened fire on a demonstration against the war in Cambodia on the campus of that infamous Ohio University.

I always knew that the Guardsmen had opened fire on student protesters in 1970; what I didn't know, strangely enough, was that they had hit them.  That, in fact, four kids between the ages of 19-25 were killed, and nine more wounded.  One paralyzed for life.  

Listening to their accounts of that day, both the students and the soldiers, was overwhelming.  I went out into the garden a wept for a while, until Jason found me and held me in his arms.  "That hardly ever happens to us," he said, a little joke to cheer me up.  Morbidly, it did.  

Now I'm sitting out on my porch, the weight of that sadness still with me.  There's something so tragic that even forty years of forgiveness can't erase in it -- the students, speaking out with strong, young voices against something they believed with their hearts to be wrong -- some of them even carrying black flags to "show their despair" for their friends who were dying overseas.  Bright lights extinguished in the heat of a humid Ohio afternoon, the smell of gunpowder in the air.

I wish I had something profound to say about it, something worthy of their lives, but there's nothing to say other than, Ancestors, you're with us, we remember you, we hear you, and I'm so sorry.

Weaver, weaver, weave these threads, whole and strong into your web.  Healer, healer heal their pain; in love may they return again:

Jeffrey Glenn \Miller; 20, 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth - killed instantly
Allison B. Krause; 19, 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound - died later that day
William Knox Schroeder; 19, 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound - died almost an hour later in hospital while waiting for surgery
Sandra Lee Scheuer; 20, 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound - died a few minutes later from loss of blood
Joseph Lewis Jr. 71 ft (22 m); hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg
John R. Cleary 110 ft (34 m); upper left chest wound
Thomas Mark Grace 225 ft (69 m); struck in left ankle
Alan Michael Canfora 225 ft (69 m); hit in his right wrist
Dean R. Kahler 300 ft (91 m); back wound fracturing the vertebrae - permanently paralyzed from the chest down
Douglas Alan Wrentmore 329 ft (100 m); hit in his right knee
James Dennis Russell 375 ft (114 m); hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot - both wounds minor (died 2007)
Robert Follis Stamps 495 ft (151 m); hit in his right buttock (died June 11, 2008)
Donald Scott MacKenzie 750 ft (230 m); neck wound
Mary Anne Vecchio, who watched her friend die.
The many others who were there, who bear in their hearts and minds, wounding from this terrible event.
The many others who heard about it, and lost faith.
All those who perish,young in life, lifting their courageous voices to the heavens.

(for more info on the Kent State Massacre, try Wikipedia )