Tragedy at Kent State
The anniversary date of an historic American tragedy is approaching on our calendar watch.
On May 4, 1970, four students were shot dead at Kent State University while Ohio National Guard soldiers were enforcing the Riot Act.
The students, Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder, 19, were gunned down in the midst of anti-war demonstration.
In the upcoming remembrance of this tragic event, I post here an excerpt from my 2017 novel, King of Soul.
The excerpt depicted here is lifted from chapter 24, a scene in which protagonist Donnie Evans, a traveler who just happens to be there on the fateful day, witnesses the unfolding of a tragedy.
Out in the field, a National Guard Jeep moved slowly in front of the unruly assembly. From the passenger seat, a campus policeman announced through a bullhorn repeatedly: “This assembly is unlawful. This crowd must disperse immediately. This is an order!” Catcalls, boos, cursing accompanied the officer’s repetitive announcements as he persistently proclaimed the riot act into that charged-up atmosphere of student discontent. The angry young people jeered; all around them, from distant approaches, hundreds more were peering, observing firsthand the mounting release of pent-up generational angst. There must have been a thousand of them. Fear was condensing in the atmosphere, perhaps most of all within the stoic countenance of the Guardsmen, whose dreadful assignment was to curb the rebellious urges of their fellow baby booming disquieted soulmates.
High noon found a rising crescendo of unprecedented enmity. The Guard was ordered to launch a barrage of tear-gas canisters, and that is what they did. Suddenly metallic canisters zipped through the air in parabolic arcs. The surprise trajectory immediately cast a pall of shock, and scattered panic in foggy confusion upon the ill-prepared juveniles. Most of the students had no idea of what was coming. But a few knew, and several of them plunged forward, grabbed the fuming tear-gas canisters, and hurled them back at the soldiers. In the clouding melée, the soldiers advanced. Donnie noticed, to his far left, through the fogged embattlement a tall, wiry student running down the hill directly to the Victory Bell monument. A bushy-haired zealot grabbed hold of the bell, clanging it loudly. The sound of it produced a startling effect, as a call to battle, a ringing proclamation that the insurrection had begun.
All hell broke loose. Chaos was suddenly the order of the day, until such time as fate would soon put an end to it.
Also in remembrance of that fateful day, an upcoming drama will be presented later this week at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where I live.
Dr. Ray Miller, professor of Drama at Appalachian State University, will stage the debut of his drama, Kent State: Then and Again, beginning on Thursday, April 21.
Registration to witness the virtual event online can be obtained at:
Historic information about the Kent State tragedy can also be obtained through reading James A. Michener’s book about what happened on that fateful day in 1970. This book is the primary source that I used while researching the tragic event: