Leading up to the 25th anniversary, some students, like senior pre-law student Richard Heinz, still pushed back on such heavy remembrance for the four killed on May 4.
“In spite of all the melodramatic emotionalism that will inevitably be staged on this 25th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, we need to remember that the four students died due to the fact that the ‘peace’ protestors in their generation didn’t know how to protest peacefully,” Heinz wrote in a letter to the editor of The Kent Stater, ending his note with a flippant, “See ya at the candlelight vigil on May 3rd!”
Researchers Stuart Taylor and Michael Hulsizer conducted a useful study to determine changes in Kent State students’ attitudes toward the events of May 4 between 1970, when they occurred, and 1995, the 25th anniversary. Their study found that only 9% of students in 1995 felt the guardsmen were provoked into opening fire compared to 25% in 1970. Also, 49% of 1995’s students believed the guards should be charged with murder as opposed to 40% of students in 1970.
Erin Grajek, a freshman who hadn’t yet decided on her major, offered some insight into a student from 1995’s mental space surrounding the May 4 shootings. As we got further from the tragedy, some students started to feel a natural disconnect.
“It’s hard for us to understand because we’ve never dealt with protests or been confronted with war,” Grajek told Kent Stater campus editor April Antonelli. “Most students now don’t know how to deal with what happened, and we blame who they tell us to blame.”
1995 also marked a shift in local thinking to where Kent State students and their community started to see May 4 remembrance almost as a responsibility not only to educate their own, but others as well.
As The Kent Stater wrote in an “Our View” on May 4, 1995, “Campus today is going to be filled with extra people, cars and media — extra hassle. But try and remember that on this day Kent State becomes everyone’s campus. Even if it is just for today, try to be understanding of others’ rights to commemorate as they see fit. And even if you don’t feel the need to take part, respect those who do. This is more than just a day in Kent history; it is part of U.S. history.”