50th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

Howard Ruffner, photographer and student at Kent State University, was hired by Life Magazine to photograph the events of May 4, 1970. His photo is on the cover of the May 15, 1970 issue of the Life Magazine cover story about the Kent State massacre. He has published a thoughtful photographic memoir of the few days surrounding May 4, 1970 – Moments of Truth, (Kent State University Press, 2019.)

gasp masks, no students on campus, no graduation ceremony, unpopular president, protests, overwhelming resistance. We will commemorate the 50th May 4 online.

The irony.

May 4, 1970. Monday at noon.

In a monumental movement, college students across the country were standing up for what they believed in, standing up to The Power.  But then The Power pulled their guns and shot them.  At Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio.

The Ohio National guard’s excuse was that stones were being thrown at them, by Kent State students who were 100 feet away, at the bottom of the hill. Most of them just on their way to class.

“Guard! All right, prepare to fire!”

Guard! 

1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12,  13

In thirteen seconds, the National Guard shot 64 bullets at the students, striking thirteen students; four shot dead.

Here’s what Life Magazine had for us on May 11:

“Nixon in a Crisis of Leadership.”  Nixon got the headlines.

They wouldn’t dare shoot bullets into a crowd of Yale students, but Kent State was a small town public university in Ohio where maybe they were considered expendable.

Nixon withdrew troops from Vietnam in 1971.

Newsweek, April 28, 1980

It took nine excruciating years for any money to reach the victims of the Kent State Massacre in a long and painful court case, and then an appeal. No guilt admitted. For this, many students, including Howard Ruffner, the photographer, who was the lead witness with his extensive photo documentation, had to devote extensive periods of time during the 1970’s to testify in court about the Kent State massacre.

There is no justice for little people.

Moments of Truth by Howard Ruffner. A photographer’s experience of Kent State 1970. Published in 2019 in remembrance of the Kent State massacre.

A Monday just like the day I’m posting this, on Monday, May 4, 2020, during the Great Pandemic.

But still:

“Stay passionate for what you believe and stand together to make changes.” -Howard Ruffner