Alan Canfora was wounded at Kent State in 1970.
"For the past ten years I have devoted myself to presenting people with the facts. What happened here was unforgivable, and the facts prove this," stated Alan Canfora, wounded at Kent State in 1970. The most active of those who survived the thirteen second shooting barrage, Canfora is a charter member of the May 4th Task Force, founded on the Kent State campus in 1976 and devoted to presenting films, plays, slide shows to heighten awareness of the May 4 incident. "The primary objective of the Task Force's activities is to expose the Kent State coverup. Our persistence has resulted in several important victories," adds Alan. "Since the early 1960's there have been nineteen students killed on the college campuses, But Kent State is the only place where we have had a protracted effort to obtain justice. The 1979 settlement is the only time where there was a financial settlement and an apology. This is unprecedented and is a tribute for the efforts of all who have fought so diligently over the past ten years to expose the coverup on the local, state and federal levels. The patriots, the real patriots, are the ones who have been involved in this struggle."
Canfora, who recently received his Masters degree from Kent State, has spoken throughout the country on the Kent State shootings and continues his efforts to fight for other causes which benefit those he regards as the common people. Even with the "victories," Canfora remains concerned. "The criminals who committed murder did not spend one day in jail, but our efforts to expose the truth will serve as an example to others who are victims of such injustice. It is clear now that the coverup went all the way up to the highest office. The secret memo indicates Nixon said to stall the Federal Grand Jury."
Yet ten years after the incident, Alan's efforts to provide a fitting tribute persist. "We in the Task Force are launching a nationwide effort to have May 4 declared "National Student Day." Intended to memorialize the four at Kent State and all the other students killed on our nation's campuses, the holiday would also recognize the positive contributions student have made to our society. "May 4 should be selected due to the significance of the murders at Kent State. It was the incident which resulted in the most students death; and it was also the only incident when women were gunned down." Canfora hopes that making May 4 a holiday would also prod Americans to try to learn more about the tragic violent reaction to dissent in Kent, Ohio in 1970.
Lou was Bill Schroeder's roommate at Kent State in 1970.
On Sunday, May 3, 1970, the helicopters hovered overhead and search lights shined into the window. The sound of the choppers continued through the night. Bill Schroeder leaned out of the bunk and said, "I'm scared, Louie." These were the last words Lou Cusella would hear his roommate speak. Less that twenty four hours later Cusella would be asked to identify Bill's body at the hospital. What effect has May 4, 1970 had on Lou? The professor of Communications and Rhetoric at Delaware answers, "It has left me with an indelible impression of the power of the state to maintain order. I now realize that those in power will resort to whatever means necessary to keep their power. There is also not a day that goes by that I don't think of Bill and how senseless his and the other three deaths were."
"There was so much tension prevalent throughout the weekend. There was an ominous mood which, in retrospect, suggested things were completely out of hand." Yet, according to Cusella, "None of the officials did anything to try to avert the chain of events. The events of Water Street culminated in the feeling that it was us against them. Kids were solely reacting to the weather, but the police came in a people became polarized. The Mayor overreacted by clamping down a confusing curfew, further aggravating the situation. The ROTC fire further widened the gap." Cusella continued, "The Governor's confrontational rhetoric of May 3 escalated the tension. After the Guard swept through the campus on the evening of May 3 the time was ripe for a cathartic reaction on May 4. The mood on the campus on May 4 was mystical; I can't explain it but it was a highly dramatic event. The Guard were invaders." According to Cusella, Schroeder, who had been away from campus until Sunday evening, was deeply bothered by President Nixon's escalation of the war into Cambodia: "Bill had openly discussed his feelings about the ROTC; how he didn't feel he could continue in a program with the armed services connected to the war in Vietnam. He talked with me several times and also to his professor in ROTC."
Cusella remembers that Bill was "so well trained and schooled. I think if he would have lived he would have been teaching at a university now, or maybe he would have continued in geology. The unique thing about Bill was that he was good at everything. he possessed supreme confidence in himself. Once he walked into a physical science class and took a midterm cold and got an ďA'. that tells you what type of intellect he had. He was a great writer and was very mobile. he was very academic, but also a great athlete."
"I really look at the incident as an example of how authorities often resort to lethal force to prove their credibility. The students were armed with words and symbols, an maybe even a few rocks. There is no reason for the guard's action." Reflecting on the 1979 settlement, Lou finds himself unsatisfied with the outcome: "In 1970 with the Portage Country Grand Jury Report, all the students were scared we would all be indicted; this was the rumor the townspeople were perpetrating. They tried to blame the students for the events. The Grand Jury tried to reprimand all the students who took part. In the 1979 settlement I still think the ineptness of the Guard should have been made clear. Canterbury and Del Corso should have been censured. The settlement does not compensate for the loss of Bill's life, or the others and it does not compensate for how those lives were taken."
Finding it difficult to accept the finality of the incident, Cusella says quietly, "I still have Bill's key and carry it everyday. I think about him and Mrs. Schroeder everyday I live."
Dean Kahler was paralyzed at Kent State in 1970 and is now married to Valerie Manning Kahler.
Valerie Manning Kahler pondered the question and then responded, "you've got to look at the orchestra conductor. he's the one who dictates what's on the program. So many are instrumental in what happened. The national leadership set the stage and people followed." Over the past ten years, Valerie's attitude about the tragedy has mellowed, but then Dean Kahlers' wife adds, "Dean was never bitter."
"The settlement in 1979 was the best thing that has happened. It is proof the defendants know we should win; that is why they settled. We got the financial support we desperately need because of Dean's injury, but we also got the defendants to admit they were wrong." "If the trial would have continued and we had won, the defendants could have maintained their innocence and blamed the verdict on the jury. But with the settlement, they admitted they were wrong, which to me is much stronger that a jury verdict. The settlement was financially and emotionally rewarding."
Dean and Valerie Kahler today live in a secluded house among the rolling hills near Albany, Ohio, where Dean works for the Ohio Secretary of State. Dean has attempted to put "Hatred outside my life." Throughout the trials which followed the shooting, Kahler frequently talked with the defendants and tried to console the other victims. Today Kahler speaks of forgiveness to those who at yet outraged by the incident, " I am trying to do now what I was doing in 1970; I am trying to be a peacemaker." In the ten years since his wounding, Dean and Valerie have spoken out on the incident throughout the U.S. In 1976 at a Kent State Forum at the University of Illinois, Dean's speech received a standing ovation from the one thousand gathered. One of those in the audience expressed the mood of the crowd, :That bullet might have ripped away use of his legs, but nobody can touch his positive attitude."
"Ten years doesn't change my perception all that much," added Valerie. "The killings at Kent and the wounding of Dean and the others is indicative of the same type of senseless killing as the murder of John Lennon. There simply is no reason for it."
Joseph Lewis was wounded at Kent State in 1970.
"Over the past ten years my feelings as to who was responsible have changed. With each new piece of information released the responsibility for the incident moves up the ladder of command, beyond the National Guard and their leaders to the state and federal government." This is how Joseph Lewis views the 1970 incident - of which he is reminded each day because of the permanent damage he suffered from the bullet that tore through his body - after ten years have passed. " believe they turned and fired - and let me add, there was absolutely no danger - none at all - they fired because they wanted to get some of the people they thought had been bothering them. I was there and I saw the "huddle" on the practice football field. I think they decided then who they were going to get," replied Lewis to the question of what happened on May 4. "I have mixed feelings on the settlement. Everybody got what they deserved but I still think it is blood money." On the significance of the 1970 incident to all Americans, Lewis laments, " This was an enormous violation of Civil rights and the problem has never been answered. The trial in 1979 set a precedent. I don't think law enforcement officers will be as apt to shoot in situations similar to Kent State."
Robbie Stamps was wounded at Kent State in 1970.
"People don't know. To give them a book is very valuable, but to show them something like this, a mother-son relationship combined with the stunning slides and music, dramatically heightens the effect." Such was wounded student Robbie Stamp's assessment of Kent State: A Requiem. On the importance of the Requiem and of his hope for the television movie, Kent State, Stamps says, "The reason why these art forms are so pertinent today is that things are worse now that they have been in the last ten years - the Middle East, the draft, nuclear power, Reagan. I think the relevance of Kent State is dramatically captured in the play. Art always heightens truth and demonstrates the essence."
Stamps, who has been an active spokesman for the Kent State victims over the ten years since he was struck by a National Guard bullet, maintains that the guardsmen decided while on the practice football field to shoot at certain students - including Jeffrey Miller - who had been vigorously demonstrating throughout the march from the Commons. When asked about the impact of the 1970 incident on his life, Robbie paused and then replied: "Many think it should be buried, and they tried to do that by building the gym. You can't bury what happened. You have to live with it. not necessarily to dwell on it but go on with our lives and incorporate what we all have, or should have, learned that May 4. Through the Requiem, and the movie, America will have a chance to see the facts. "I have seen the Requiem and believe it should be shown on every college campus; I only hope the movie is as historically accurate. For someone to show the truth in such a sensitive, beautiful, and balanced way, there's absolutely nothing but truth - the suffering, the sorrow, Kent State, 1970, that's part of my life and also a part of each and every American's."
Thomas Hensley is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Kent State University and is a noted scholar on the May 4, 1970 shootings.
"It symbolized the deep division at home over the Vietnam War."
This is how Kent State Professor Thomas Hensley describes the historical significance of the shootings in 1980. Hensley is a leading expert on Kent State litigation and co-author with his colleague, Professor Jerry Lewis, of Kent State and May 4, A Social Science Perspective.
To those who say justice has been attained by the victims, Hensley responds. " I think what the litigation showed was the enormous difficulty for citizens to use the courts to achieve justice against the state. Some semblance of justice was achieved through the out-of-court settlement, but it was a very long and difficult process."
Hensley is also anxious to alter some of the stereotypes about the university which developed in the aftermath of the shootings.
"Kent State became known as an institution of radicalism-a place where trouble occurs. Only now, as we get into the 1980's, have we been able to begin to shake this image."
Part of this image resulted from the prevailing attitudes of the Kent townspeople about those attending the university. Hensley describes the locals' feelings as "very tense, vicious and hostile" toward the students. "Before the shootings the students were seen as an ďalien force', looking differently and acting differently."
Professor Hensley hopes that some of this may be corrected with the airing of the two-part television movie. His optimism is reflected in his enthusiasm for the production.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm surprised that it hadn't been done earlier. It should have an important balancing effect in terms of showing the students and those who were shot needlessly."
To discern whether this film actually changes attitudes and beliefs, Hensley is considering running an experiment to assess opinions following the airing of Kent State. "I'm talking about starting an experimental study with Kent high school students. clearly for a lot of people it won't change attitudes. Hopefully, for a lot of people who haven't really looked at it closely, it will."
Linda Lyke, an Assistant Professor of Art at Occidental College taught at Kent State at the time of the 1970 incident.
"If they went back to school, I was afraid they would disappear."
So says Linda Lyke of a collection of telegrams which were loaned to her by the Kent State student body president to be included as part of a Fall, 1970 art festival on campus. At the time she was an instructor in the regional campus art program at Kent State.
Today Linda is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After ten years of thought about the incident, Lyke offered the following evaluation of who was to blame for the May 4th shootings:
"I think that some of the officers in the National Guard, as well as those in local government and the Governor's office are responsible for what happened."
"The May 4 deaths and their aftermath, including the immediate closing of the school, influenced each individual at Kent State 1970 in one way or another, if only to cause a greater political awareness." Linda remembers that "It had a tremendous effect on the lives of almost everybody I knew. The students became much more isolated from society."
As for the possibility that some townspeople of Kent might change a few of their notions about the "radical students" who they felt provoked the 1970 shooting, Lyke is not particularly optimistic.
"Most of the townspeople have not changed. I don't think there is a lot of sympathy in Kent."
Glenn Frank is a Professor of Geology at Kent State and played a decisive role as peacemaker after the shooting in 1970. The following is a letter written by Glenn Frank to an 8th grade student in Ohio on his thought ten years later concerning the May 4, 1970 tragedy.
March 6, 1980
The perceptions concerning May 4th 1970, are as varied as the individuals that hold them. After ten years, no new facts seen to have emerged even though there are still critical questions that must be answered if we are to understand this tragic event. . . and tragedy it was. The taking of a hum life is a tragedy, even when taken under guise of "due process" in the courts, but to take that life for racial, religious or political reasons or because of destruction of property does not speak well of a free country. however, a free society without personal responsibility also leads to chaos, so the kinds of actions and reactions that are chosen depend largely on circumstances, perceptions and personal prejudices. We can only hope that those making these critical choices will have wisdom and understanding beyond their years.
It is not at all curious that both extremes in this event firmly, and almost religiously, believe that they have moral justice and righteous power supporting their particular perceptions. Both extremes appear to delight in confrontation, providing that "their side" wins in court or in the "minds of Man." The extreme will possibly not change their perceptions, and many of us are too emotionally involved to differential between fact and perception, but this even is part of history and probably only time and the writers of history will sort out the good and evil. We cannot change the past, but we can affect the future. When I start discussing the events surrounding May 4, 1970, I can't stop, but most of this debate, with myself, is in conflict because I try to understand both sides of the tragedy, and although I don't necessarily agree with a position, I try to understand that position or perception.
I have another concern. To most people there is no middle ground in this event. Most have a mind-set that will not allow any understanding of an opposite view or acceptance of even partial responsibility concerning their own involvement. I suspect any jury in the world that judged Governor Rhodes not guilty would give an unacceptable verdict in the eyes of many. By the same reasoning, the jury that gave a verdict of guilty would be unacceptable to be a large segment of the U.S. population who believe the "students got what they deserved." I do not subscribe to either specific situation.
In spite of these concerns, I feel individuals involved should be willing to discuss the circumstances so that it can never happen again. At the same time, I am sad that I was even remotely involved in this tragedy since my mental and physical well being has certainly been affected, but this is of small concern when I consider what others have lost. You ask that I relate my feelings and understanding of that weekend. I have trouble describing them. I felt the anger of the shop keepers who had their life's work partially destroyed by a mob who lashed out at a distant but "decadent" government. I felt the horror of an escalating war in Vietnam and that my son might be called. I felt the frustration of the police in trying unsuccessfully to cope with the mob. I felt the building of psychological pressure to respond by individuals on both sides, the escalating act and counter-act, never dreaming of the ultimate response. I directed anger at the individuals who cried "we didn't know the guns were loaded." Only a naive school child would have assumed unloaded weapons after what had happened on Friday and Saturday nights. I felt the shock and disbelief at the actual shooting. I felt the need to maintain a semblance of order in a chaotic situation. I felt the anguish and hopelessness of moving a group of "students" who would not move after the shootings, and I broke down and wept when they did move.
Well, these represent a few of the many emotions I felt. There are still many unanswered questions. Who really started the May 4, 1970 event? Nixon, Mitchell, F.B.I., Maoist, Communists, anti-war protestors or high principled individuals? Why at conservative, middle of the road, blue collar Kent State University? Was it by accident or by design? Why was Governor Rhodes so hostile with his "brown short" comments? Why were students whom I knew espousing Maoist doctrine and hostility that went well beyond reasonable concern for Vietnam and Cambodia? Why did the shooting actually occur, and who fired the first shot? Why did every investigative body, except for the Scranton Commission (I believe), seem to restrict or control the kind of evidence that witnesses have wanted to present, since the light of day would help to substantiate or disprove individual perceptions?
I want answers to these and many more questions for "peace of mind", not for vindictiveness. Everyone was at fault. The Governor and the National Guard have not enhanced themselves in my eye by denying any responsibility, but neither have the students, radicals and others who were directly involved or who defended the protestors by not assuming some degree of responsibility.
Some have said "the means are often unjust." I suppose that holds for the Guard becoming jury, judge and executioner as well as for the mob acting as jury, judge and destroyer of property. There appears to be symbolism in burning an R.O.T.C. building in certain eyes. Others would point to the killings as symbolic of what happens to dissenters.
A second tragedy is that this event has ingrained our deepest convictions and reinforced our prejudices so that the rift is even greater than before. I can see no hope for understanding regardless of what a court may decide.
I hope my comments are useful to you in your social studies panel as well as in your perceptions of this tragic event.
Glenn W. Frank
Professor of Geology