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On 50th Anniversary Of Shootings, Kent State Holding Virtual Commemoration

Students visit the site of the May 4, 1970, shootings during the annual commemoration in 1974.
Larry Roberts
Kent State University Library
Students visit the site of the May 4, 1970, shootings during the annual commemoration in 1974.

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the day National Guardsmen opened fire on Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students were killed, and another nine were wounded.

The university planned a number of events for the days leading up to and including the anniversary of the May 4 shootings. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school has shifted to a roughly hour-long virtual commemoration

"I've seen a rough-cut of it. It's very meaningful," says Kent State President Todd Diacon. "It relies on existing videos and film. There are several interviews that are included. I was very moved by it when I watched it."

The video will be available on the May 4 website beginning at 12 p.m.

Jane Fonda was scheduled to speak over the weekend, while David Crosby and Joe Walsh were supposed to play a benefit concert to raise money for new scholarships.

Diacon said they never tried to replace the impact of the actual face-to-face events, which were supposed to stretch over four days.

Instead, Diacon feels the video that was produced does a good job of explaining what happened over the course of those days leading up to and on that day in 1970, especially to an audience who might not be familiar with all of the details. At the same time, he calls it a "moving and touching homage" to the students killed and injured.

Diacon said several generous donors stepped up and gave enough to endow the four scholarships even without the money raised from the planned concert. There will be four new scholarships for students majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Diacon pointed to the hard work of about two dozen people over the last three years to prepare for the 50th anniversary and the four days of events.

"We hope to replicate some of that for the 51st commemoration," he said. 

He said everyone involved agrees that the most important thing currently is "to stay safe and practice social isolation and distancing."

Andrew joined WKSU News in 2014. He oversees the daily operations of the WKSU news department and its reporters and hosts, coordinates daily coverage, and serves as editor. His commitment is to help foster reporting that marks the best of what public radio has to offer: a mix of first-rate journalism with great storytelling. His responsibilities also include long-term strategic planning for news coverage in Northeast Ohio that serves WKSU’s audience via on-air, online, by social media and through emerging technologies. You can also hear Andrew on-air daily as the local host for Here and Now, Fresh Air, and The World.
Abigail Bottar is a junior at Kent State University. She is pursuing a major in political science with a concentration in American politics and minors in history and women's studies. Additionally, Abigail is starting her second semester copy editing for The Burr.