Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mary Ann Vecchio’

Kent State University, May 4, 2017 by Pat LaMarche

Good Afternoon. I’d like to thank May 4th Task Force for having me here with you today.

It is my great and solemn honor to speak to you today.

I was an unusually politically aware nine-year-old kid, trying to make sense of a country spinning out of control, when the federalized troops of the Ohio National Guard opened fire here, at Kent State.

See, when I was growing up, my dad had strict rules about television watching. On school nights the only tv we could watch, was the news. Hind sight being what it is, I probably should have been allowed to watch I Dream of Jeannie or The Munsters and thereby skipped the nightly diet of poverty, race riots and war.

I look back and remember sitting in front of a black and white tv, at truths too upsetting for living color. As the decades have gone by, the contrast has been turned up on the black and white reality that poured out at me each night. I look back now at moments that get more vivid as details emerge. As a journalist, I’m grateful that these stories continue to evolve.

Because of my parents’ news rules, I grew up watching the Vietnam War unfold. I grew up watching civil rights showdowns. I grew up knowing that all too often brute force was the solution to – well – to everything.

One of those school nights when I sat down to watch tv was May 4th 1970. I remember being horrified, confused, disbelieving. I remember being frightened. I better remember my mom, once again hunched over at our kitchen table, grieving – as she had when Martin Luther King Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy were shot.

There was no shortage of black and white tragedy shaping my world. The citizenry used brute force on each other. My government used brute force in foreign countries. Police forces and sheriff’s departments used billy clubs, fire hoses and dogs on protesters. And then, at Kent State, the federal government used brute force on privileged white college kids.

Kent State shocked violence weary white America like nothing before had.

Everyone paying attention to the news in 1970 knew two things. Before Kent State, you had to fit into a couple of categories in order to get killed. You had to be famous. You had to have put yourself out there. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X.

Or you had to be some nosey do-gooder looking for trouble in the deep south, like, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

But, if by some chance you were some innocent by stander, well then you had to be black.

Kent State changed all that. Kent State threatened privileged Americans. White draft deferred college kids could be killed just walking to class.

But there was another frightening distinction at Kent State.

Before Kent State, trigger happy police departments killed protestors – as was the case when the South Carolina highway patrol perpetrated the Orangeburg massacre. But at Kent State, in full violation of the United States Constitution, the U.S. military opened fire on the American people. Tanks rolled into town. Check points were set up. And U.S. Army forces terrorized the populace.

Yesterday, on our way into Kent, we detoured and stopped at the Robinson Memorial hospital now University Hospital. That’s where Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer along with other victims went after being shot. That’s where their parents went to identify their children’s bodies. I’ll be writing a piece for my page at the Huffington Post later this week, and you’ll be able to see the short video we made in the hallway where 15-year-old Laurel Krause stood waiting for her parents to identify her dead sister.

As we left, I thanked the woman volunteering at the front desk. Ruby’s her name and she’s 73. I asked her if she remembered the Kent State shootings. She did. Her oldest child went to a local grade school, until the national guard took it over as a military occupation outpost. She had twin two year olds. Late in the day on May 4th she realized she had no milk in the house. She got in her car and headed for the market only to be stopped at a military checkpoint. She told me that the guardsman trained his rifle at her and demanded to know where she was going. She had the kids in the car. She pointed to them and said, “I’m going to get my babies some milk.”

May 4, 1970 was a bad day. That’s how Ruby remembers it. That’s how we all should remember it.

I’d like to take a moment and congratulate Kent State University on their long – now completed march – toward their National Landmark designation. Last October, I had the distinct honor of escorting Mary Vecchio to the public hearing hosted by the National Park Landmark Commission. The photograph of Mary – a teenage runaway – her arms outstretched, kneeling over Jeffrey Miller’s body became the image of Kent State for a long time.

It was an image the school desperately wanted to shake.

Many of you know that. If you attended yesterday’s panel discussion about the National Landmark designation, you know that the university wanted to forget the shootings ever happened. By 1977 enrollment was down, and the school – perhaps rightfully – thought that people didn’t want to send their kids to a place where kids got killed.

Kent wanted a new image. What better way to say, Kent State focuses on a healthy living student body, then with a new gym?

But instead of dulling the memory of Kent State, the effort to build a gym invigorated it. Survivors returned to campus. Aggrieved parents returned to the scene where their precious children died. And while strong arm tactics such as tear gas were used again on the students, deadly force was not.

Nixon was gone. J Edgar Hoover was gone. Months earlier Jimmy Carter had pardoned the young men who protested the war by fleeing the country and the draft. The country wanted to heal.

This is the 40th anniversary of that gym protest and as such the discussion this year has taken a slight turn from the killing and injuring of 13 students to the wanton disregard for history and the conscious desire to obliterate if not blur the scene of the crime.

When I brought Mary Vecchio to those hearings it was because she too felt that the story wasn’t complete. Mary’s story, Ruby’s story, that are all a part of the Kent State story. Nixon’s scorched earth policy of killing students, terrifying young moms on an errand to get milk, illegally bombing foreign nations gave way to trees planted on a hillside, a new gymnasium, ugly attacks Allison Krause’s reputation, imprisoning Mary Vecchio in reform school.

This past October, the historians at the National Park Service public forum, agreed with Mary Vecchio. They discussed at great length and with great respect the value of eyewitness accounts. They urged Kent State to include as many of them as possible.

Sometimes human nature gets the better of us. We shy away from people who make a fuss. Who show their anger. Consequently, some historians and institutions want sanitized history. Just the bare bones that can be independently confirmed, not all that fleshy humanity that gives an historic event it’s depth, it’s color, it’s warmth. Historians can shy away from eyewitness accounts because humans sometimes have funny ways of remembering things. Memories are colored by emotions, past experiences, subsequent tragic consequences.

The landmark commission reminded Kent State that they can have both. They can have the historic skeleton of verifiable facts and they can have the raw emotion that rips through the heart of a murder victims’ father. With so many living eye witnesses, Kent State can compile a vibrant historiography to accompany their memorials in the parking lot.

What Mary remembered so vividly, the shattered glass from car windows, Allison Krause’s foaming last attempts to speak, Jeffrey Millers blood running like a stream away from his body, they are vivid and they are real and they are every bit as sacred to the story of Kent State as the pagoda where the soldiers turned and fired.

You want to know the history of human rights in the United States? Then you need to know about the FBI manhunt for Mary Vecchio. You need to know that the governor of Florida blamed her for the deaths of her friends. You need to know everything you can possibly know about everyone shot at that day and the community in which they lived. And when their stories are included, then Kent State, your historic landmark will have preserved history and not just in black and white, but in real living color.

Read Full Post »

On October 19, 2016 before the US Dept of the Interior and the National Park Service, the Kent State Massacre nomination for National Historic Landmark status was heard. Please read Mary Ann Vecchio’s comment before the nomination advisory board in Washington, D.C. offered on October 19, 2016:

©1970 John Filo. All Rights reserved.

©1970 John Filo. All Rights reserved.

My name is Mary Ann Vecchio. I am the 14-year-old in the iconic, Pulitzer-prize-winning photo taken at Kent State. I am pictured kneeling above the body of 20-year old Jeff Miller as he lay dying. I am here because I am deeply concerned about this application to designate Kent State as a National Historic Landmark. I am also a member of the National Parks Service, an institution that I love from the core of my being.

Like so many of us present at the Kent State shootings, I have carried profound life-long consequences for my presence at the massacre site. My exclusion from this process is an indication of how poorly it has been executed.

Kent State University does not own the narrative of what took place on May 4, 1970. It belongs to each of us there that day, those injured, whose lives were forever altered, and above all to the families of those killed. That fateful day harmed all of us and this exclusionary process which seeks to rewrite the truth is newly re-victimizing.

I have had a chance to review the 144-page landmark nomination report and have come before you to say that the facts included in the report are inaccurate and incomplete. A credible account of the Kent State shootings is not being presented to the Department of Interior in this landmark nomination.

Kent State University has only allowed one side of the truth to be told over these last 46 years, yet it has not been challenged for this revisionism. At what point can the victims and witnesses present at Kent State be heard and stop being subjected to these untruths and distortions? The government injured us once and we are before a government commission again. We cannot bring back those lost at Kent State so all we have at this point is the truth.

There are many elements and recent developments completely censored from the nomination report, I will list just a few that have meaning for me:

New forensic evidence emerged in 2010 which established a command to fire, debunking the idea that the national guard acted spontaneously. This evidence, produced by forensic scientist Stuart Allen, was not even mentioned in the landmark report. Stuart Allen’s analysis points to government complicity at Kent State – a central feature of the accountability the victims have been seeking for decades.

On a more symbolic note but one dear to me, Neil Young’s anthem to the Kent State massacre, the popular song Ohio, is also not mentioned in the KSU nomination report.

Finally, the photo which exposed me to public scrutiny for decades is not explored in this report. I am happy to honor those harmed at Kent State with the circulation of that iconic photograph, an indication of how well-known and well-documented the massacre has been, but it grieves me deeply to know that the vast exposure of this historic event can result in a report so weighted with untruths. I deserve the truth, those killed at Kent State deserve the truth, and the American people as a whole certainly do too.

I have other objections to the content of the landmark application which I am happy to share if my further participation is invited by the Landmark Commission.

I am asking the National Parks Service to please pause, and listen to all concerned about this project, certainly not just Kent State University’s purported experts.

 



From Pat LaMarche in the Huffington Post on the Kent State massacre landmark nomination hearing, October 19, 2016 http://huff.to/2dwIqmU

The Kent State University landmark nomination report on the Kent State massacre that occurred May 4, 1970 http://bit.ly/2cIV1lO

Read Full Post »

October 22, 2016 by Pat LaMarche, originally published here

maryannvecchionewWhen she thinks about the time she spent in the parking lot, Mary Ann Vecchio’s thoughts shift back and forth between watching Allison Krause last attempts to speak and the massive hole torn through the back of Jeff Miller’s head. “I was shocked by all the blood. There was just so much blood,” Vecchio explained in the car on her way to Washington D.C. Wednesday, to voice her qualified support of a Kent State National Monument. Vecchio continued, “It was a sit down. The soldiers were lined up and yeah, they had tear gas, but we never expected that they’d shoot at us. Then they started coming at us with the guns with bayonets, in full riot gear, wearing gas masks. And I was scared to death.” After 46 years, Mary Ann still cries when she details the events of May 4, 1970, the fateful day that the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed protestors at Kent State University.

There were lots of kids at Kent that day. Four killed. Nine wounded. And hundreds more hit the ground when the bullets started flying, but only one was immortalized in a Pulitzer prize winning photograph that graced front pages from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer to Newsweek magazine. John Filo, a photojournalism major in the crowd that day, opened his shutter and captured the horror and anguish of everyone on that campus. Vecchio’s picture remains one of the most impactful photos of the 20th century.

Consequently, modern memory would remake Mary Ann Vecchio as the face of the Kent State Massacre.

Sadly, at the time, Vecchio and the fallen protesters became the poster children for the Nixon Administration’s assault on the character of student protestors across the nation. Nixon himself called the students, “bums.” Back in her home state of Florida, the governor, Claude Kirk, called Vecchio a communist. Vecchio, not a Kent student, was a teen who had run away from home to protest the war in Vietnam. Kirk used her non-student status to character assassinate Vecchio. He said that she had been planted at the University by the communists and that she was responsible for the deaths of the students there. The press hounded her. The FBI hunted her. Local police profiled her. And she has yet to forgive herself for the pain she caused her parents.

By 1990, even though popular sentiment had begun turning in favor of the student protesters, Vecchio had slipped into hiding. She’d stopped granting interviews except to ask reporters and their news agencies to leave her alone. She’d explain that Kent State had ruined her life. She didn’t trust the media – several of whom had turned her over to the FBI after she’d agreed to meet with them in the early 70’s. She was so heavily targeted that she couldn’t speak out against the injustice she’d witnessed. Vecchio wanted nothing to do with the fame and shame her time at Kent State brought her.

Until this week.

Mary Ann Vecchio ventured out to address the National Park System Advisory Board about the possible designation of the Kent State Shootings Site as a National Monument.

The campus at Kent State is owned by the state of Ohio. The parking lot where Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer were killed is effectively public property. Creating a National Monument on the site should be pretty straightforward. Laura L. Davis, Professor Emeritus of English – herself, a student protester that day – and Mark F. Seeman, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology authored the application. In their submission they credit current faculty with assisting them in their collection of data for the application. They don’t however cite victims like Mary Ann Vecchio as contributors to the request, because Vecchio and others were omitted from the process.

Vecchio explained her feelings to the board, “Like so many of us present at the Kent State shootings, I have carried profound life-long consequences for my presence at the massacre site… Kent State University does not own the narrative of what took place on May 4, 1970. It belongs to each of us there that day, those injured whose lives were forever altered, and above all to the families of those killed.”

Fortunately, the National Park System Advisory Board rectified the applicants’ blunder. The board agreed unanimously that the Kent State site fit the criteria of historical significance but after lengthy discussion they also agreed that many appropriate accounts were missing from the story. The board charged Davis and Seeman with amending their applications to include the appropriate historiography associated with Kent State. The board reminded the applicants that this controversial event demanded the inclusion of different perspectives and – more importantly – that those perspectives be respected.

There were reasons the protestors were killed at Kent State and all the evidence and every principle – especially the memories of the victims – must be included when available. The greatest gift any historian can receive is an eye witnesses to an event as well as the consequences that shaped the policies that followed.

The board concluded, due to the complexity of the controversy over the excessive force used on protesting American citizens, the nomination is incomplete without the involvement of people like Mary Ann Vecchio. For the first time in Vecchio’s life, she feels like she was heard by agents of the government: a government that – until now – had only failed her.

Read Full Post »