Each commemoration of May 4, 1970, must begin with the four who died, Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. Imagine all that each might have experienced the past 43 years, and the weight of that day on the Kent State University campus begins to take stronger hold, decisions with profound consequences, of life and death.
What all of us can do is attempt to better understand, including that independent analysis conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer of a tape recording, the Justice Department yet to say why it would not look further. The pursuit of enlightened context is what the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State seeks to bring, its formal dedication coming over the weekend.
The center reflects the welcome evolution of the university in its handling of the tragedy. The moment wouldn’t be forgotten, so many refusing to let that happen. So the school opted for a learning experience, one key milestone arriving with the creation of an annual symposium, a coming together to talk about democratic values, and no less the right to assemble in protest of the choices made by our elected government.
To be sure, there was violence those days. No lives were lost until National Guardsmen opened fire. In embracing the memory of May 4, Kent has taught much about reconciliation. Yet that isn’t all it has taught. There is the education in loss, holding to the notion that the four who died will help the rest of us make better decisions.