It has been thirty-five years since the Ohio National Guard fired their guns at the students of Kent State University, killing four, all of whom were well beyond rocking throwing distance of the Guard. Nine others were injured on May 4, 1970 in the volley of fire that the President’s Commission of Campus Unrest later ruled was “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” Philip Caputo reported the story for the Chicago Tribune. In 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings, he returns to the topic. He describes the days leading up to the tragedy, details the shootings, and debates whether the shootings changed our country.
Caputo tries very hard to be fair in his reporting. He presents the positions of all the parties involved in the conflict, noting that none tried to lessen the tensions leading up to the event. Still, he seems to agree with the President’s Commission that the guardsmen had no valid justification for the shootings. He also predicts that no one will ever solve the mystery of whether an officer ever gave the command to fire on the students. Those who really know will take their secret to the grave.
With the book is a DVD of the documentary Kent State: The Day the War Came Home, which includes interviews of both former students and former members of the National Guard. There are many regrets expressed but no apologies. The most sickening part of the film is the series of clips of interviews with "average Americans" wishing that more students had been killed.
With anti-war sentiments growing in our country today, it is a good time to refresh our memories of what happened at Kent State.
Caputo, Philip. 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings. New York: Chamberlain Bros., 2005. 1596090804