May 04, 2008
Today is an anniverary, one that causes tears to roll down my face, unable to believe what I know to be true. On May 4, 1970 in a moment of panic, National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of war protesters, murdering four college students and injuring nine more. It occurred on a beautiful day in May with blue skies and soft breeze. Having attended college at KSU, I can say, each year when the sun shined and the breeze tossed my hair, my heart hurt—a day like this? Students murdered on their college campus for protesting the Vietnam war—how could events have gotten so out of hand?
While many may not recognize the significance of this day, I live this day in memory of everything that is May 4, 1970. As my annual day of reckoning, I pay tribute, choosing my activities with care.
At age 12, my mom showed me newspaper clippings of four students shot dead at Kent State University. I was horrified by the events and then stunned, as I gained the understanding that my grandfather was police chief of the town when it occurred.
On the 20th anniversary of May 4 1970, I ditched high school (I was a junior) and went to campus with my sister and friends to attend the annual commemoration. There was no sunshine that day. The skies opened up for hours, drenching the crowd. I saw my HS History teacher; he’d been a student at KSU in 1970. The pain on his face clear, he nodded a hello.
Two years later, I got involved. I joined the May 4 Task Force; I became a Peace Marshall. The annual vigil and commemoration contributed to some of the most significant days of my college career.
After the candlelight march, there were…late nights in a parking lot, candles, whispers, surreal, intimate talks on blanket hill surrounded by 50,000 daffodils. Blurry-eyed visions at 3 am that made me believe in more. Sunrises. Pouring rain. The bell struck at noon, sharp, ceasing all conversations and causing my heart to beat hard. My friends, a community brought back to Kent State University every year. My memories lie in those parking spaces, my friends, and always, the memory of my grandfather.
In 1997, I was asked to carry Sandy’s candle down the slope of blanket hill to the stage. The wind whipped and the sun shone, walking through the crowd of thousands, the past mixing with the present, I was filled with hope. I left Kent two months later, holding that memory close to my heart. We must each act to prevent history from every repeating itself. More importantly, we must be present in our lives, take action, and be a voice for change in our country.
Before he died, my grandfather finally vocalized why he’d been so frustrated by my participation in activist organizations and specifically, the May 4 Task Force. He was afraid of history repeating itself and that I’d be there among the mayhem when it did. In college and later in San Francisco, I participated in peaceful demonstrations that had some fringe violence. As I get older, I see his point of view more clearly. He wanted to keep me safe and I appreciate that. Yet, in my 20s, there was no pulling me away from the action.
Time heals all wounds— I’m not sure I believe that cliche. I will say, it softens the pain and helps bring clarity and understanding of the events. It continues to be a bittersweet day that inspires me to be not a participant, but an activist in and for my community.
So, what did I do today to remember, as I am so far away from Kent, Ohio?
I sat at the park, played with the dog. Sound like any other day? Yes, it does. But it was more than that. I appreciated the cool breeze swirling about me, feeling the energy of it, noticing the softest sun streaming coming acros the bright blue skies, staying until the sun began to set, talking to fellow neighborhood dog folks. Loving on Siddhartha and appreciating this moment in my life. Mostly, taking a moment to say a silent pray of thanks.
Thank you for reminding me of my priorities. Thank you for reminding me that truth, goodness, and kindness resides within each of us— what we choose to do with our life is up to us— we have choices to live in whatever manner we deem fulfulling. We can love those strangers who come into our lives or we can hold them at arms’ length. We can love with all our might, in slow-dim witted ways, or consistently, like the northern star. I love in all these ways and I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to do so.
I cherish the little details that make life my own. I cherish my friends and loved ones.
May we all remember those who are no more, not just the four, but also, those who lived through those times.
So, with that, here are pictures from our daily park trip. They are for all to enjoy, but most especially for you, Sheri. Love to all, JIG.
how we ended the day…
Siddhartha spends most of this time rolling around on his back with his Cuzz in his mouth. He got this lime green one yesterday, so the red cuzz is “old news.” These are not sequence shots; yes, he spends that much time rollig on the ground.
Flirting with complete strangers
chewing on his Cuzz…
and the cutest one….
yes, dear friends, sometimes we DO live no particular way but OUR own.
UPDATED (from Ohio visit June 2008)
Sheri and I went over to the memorial after sitting on blanket hill and talking. She gave me the most amazing array of birthday presents, gathered from her travels or inspired by her work. These are lovely items and I am touched to have them. However, she gave me the candle she’s had with her at every May 4 commemoration. I unwrapped, immediately recognized it, and my eyes filled with tears. So many memories flooding over me. I suddenly saw myself next May 4, here in CA, lighting that candle and not feeling so alone in my commemoration. Such a simple gift, and yet, it meant the world to me. Ah, Sheri, thank you.
Here are the pics I took to mark our presence at the memorial. Sheri’s skirt was flickering about in the wind in such a lovely way…
Under the tree in the parking lot. The blue glass— Kendra left over?