Saturday, May 2, 1970–Kent State University
Saturday dawned chilly, gray, and overcast—a stark contrast to Friday’s spellbinding beauty. Somewhere in the apartment, a clock radio came on with the news of the morning. Through the mist of a hangover, I heard the announcer say that police in Kent had declared a curfew for Saturday night. Further reports described the violence in downtown Kent the night before. And what did this mean to us at that moment? Perhaps it was taken as a kind of adventure. Most of us didn’t think the situation would be more than a night of being reprimanded: no bars or other nightspots would be open, and all sales of alcohol were suspended. I recall almost welcoming this turn of events as I would be forced to remain in my apartment and actually get some much-needed studying done for the upcoming final exams beginning on Monday.
Whatever happened to my willpower to study that night has been lost in the press of time, but I agreed to go along with Tim and Lance, two of my roommates and fraternity brothers, to Eastway Center on campus to bowl a few games. We had a good time, but it wasn’t long before the signs of trouble became evident. About 9 p.m. nearly 2,000 boisterous marchers passed by Eastway, yelling and protesting in that “special” way of theirs. Soon after, the fire alarm sounded, startling all who were inside. Was the building on fire? Was it something related to the trouble begun the night before? As it turned out, it was one more tactic of the glorious saviors of humanity making life increasingly uncomfortable for the majority of people at KSU.
Soon, the next step in the volatile weekend occurred. The ROTC building was reported burning! We listened to the many rumors flying about. One had the entire front campus on fire; another, the Administration Building. What we now realized was that this was much more serious than most had expected. Little did we know at that moment just how serious it would become in the next 48 hours. We ran into the president of Manchester Hall (a freshmen men’s dorm at the time), and he informed us that we would be spending the night in Eastway. We found him totally serious, and he advised us to stay inside. Despite his warning, we made our way to the exit door to make our way home.
We never got any farther because, at that moment, swarms of the long-haired and glassy-eyed marchers pushed through the doors, the nauseating smell of tear gas following along with them. We separated ourselves and retreated back inside. At this point, we heard another rumor—one that would prove true—that the Ohio National Guard was on campus. We went to another side door and saw the thick fog of tear gas outside. Again, the fog of time has blurred whatever the three of us did next. All I know is we were safe.
Next: Sunday, May 3, 1970…Calm Before the Storm