Opinion
Education Opinion

13 Seconds

By Anthony J. Mullen — January 30, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Kent State University

It was over in just thirteen seconds. An unlucky number that would leave four students dead and nine others wounded at Kent State University. I am standing on the crest of a small hill, overlooking the parking lot where the Ohio National Guard herded protesting students. Over 2000 students had gathered to protest President Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia and a few agitators began to throw rocks at the soldiers. The National Guard responded by firing tear gas canisters at the students, but a brisk wind blew the gas away from the crowd. A few students probably believed the wind favored their side; none of the students understood that a warm spring day could kill.

I walk down a grassy slope and now stand in the parking lot. I look back at the spot where the National Guard stood in line. The militia held the high ground but had their retreat blocked by a large building. The students had no desire to retreat because student protests had become a national pastime for the young and this particular protest was quickly becoming the best show in town.

The defining moment when a crowd becomes a mob is not easy to calculate, and therein lies the tragedy of much human misery. Eyewitnesses interpret the events of May 4, 1970 through human eyes, a lens often tainted by time or trauma, but one incontrovertible fact remains clear: shortly after noon the Ohio National Guard aimed their rifles at the college students and fired between 61 and 67 bullets in thirteen seconds toward the parking lot. American soldiers had killed American citizens. The words Kent State forever entered the lexicon of the turbulent counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s and shocked a nation’s conscious.

I now stand at a place midway between where the guard and students clashed almost forty years ago. I glance at the crest of the small hill and at the parking lot. I see the faces of guardsmen and the faces of college students. Both groups are restless and frightened. But the most striking similarity is age. The guardsmen and college students are the same ages, mostly 18-and 19-year-old teenagers. Where are the adults? Why weren’t adults standing where I am standing now? This “no man’s land” of real estate could have been the perfect place for responsible adults to yell, “STOP!”

Sadly, no such interdiction occurred. A generation of young people was left to settle a nation’s conflicted soul on the soil of a Midwest college campus. The village elders and faculty arrived after the killings, and did a good job preventing more bloodshed. But they arrived too late.

In the aftermath of the Kent State shootings sides quickly formed; the younger generation mostly blamed the National Guard and the older generation mostly blamed the protesters. Guardsmen were labeled “murderers” and students labeled “anarchists.” The dead and wounded became martyrs to a generation that believed revolution could transform society’s ills and make the world a peaceable kingdom.

If only adults had acted as the peacemakers.

The opinions expressed in Road Diaries: 2009 Teacher of the Year are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)