KENT, Ohio — On the 50th anniversary of the May 4 shootings on Kent State’s campus, organizers were determined to honor the memory and legacy of the victims despite the COVID-19 shutdown.
“We had to process our grief, our fear, our anger, our confusion, not just in the hours afterwards, but in the days, the months, and the years afterwards," remembers Chic Canfora.
Canfora and her brother Alan were Kent State students on campus that fateful day in 1970 when four students were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen during a protest against the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Alan Canfora was among nine students wounded.
An elaborate memorial planned for more than two years was replaced by an online tribute Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic. The program was scheduled to start at noon.
“We will never forget the sights and the sounds of the gun fire, the adrenaline rush as we dove for cover hoping not to be hit and the horror we discovered when we came out from the cars and trees that shielded us," Chic Canfora said.
Then 33-year-old Professor Jerry Lewis, one of a handful of faculty marshals trying to keep the peace, applied first aid.
“I saw a student laying on the ground some distance away so I went over, it was a blind student who had been tear gassed, so I applied first aid,” he said.
Not all of those killed or wounded were involved in the demonstration.
"The whole experience seems surreal knowing that on the 50th anniversary the campus will be closed like it was 50 years ago," Canfora said.
The confrontation, sometimes referred to as the May 4 massacre, was a defining moment for a nation sharply divided over the protracted war, in which more than 58,000 Americans died, the Associated Press reported. It sparked a strike of 4 million students across the U.S., temporarily closing some 900 colleges and universities. Some historians claim the events also played a pivotal role in turning public opinion against the conflicts in Southeast Asia.
Organizers told News 5 in Cleveland that there is no word yet on if next year’s commemoration will be done on campus or virtually, but they will start working on organizing events for May 4, 2021 in the near future.