Barbara Gross, Personal Narrative
Submitted via email, April 26, 2000
I was due to graduate in August of 1970 and was in the midst of student teaching in Akron in the spring of '70. On Friday afternoon I drove to Columbus where I picked up a friend and we drove down to Louisville, Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby. Over the weekend, when people asked me where I went to school, very few people had heard of Kent State. How that would change over the next few days.
While driving back to Kent Sunday morning, I recall hearing about trouble downtown Saturday night. As I approached my highway exit (I was living at College Towers) there was a large traffic back-up. The police were checking everyone's ID as they got off the highway to be sure they belonged in town. We later heard the police were concerned about infiltrators coming to town. When I got up to the exit and showed my ID, a policeman followed me home.
I recall helicopters circling all around that night. It was warm out so the windows and doors were all open and you could hear the helicopters. Everyone was running up and down the halls of the apartment talking about a rally that was going to be held at noon tomorrow.
I called a friend I drove with to student teaching, Susie Graven, and we talked about skipping student teaching Monday so we could go to the rally. I don't know why we decided not to go to the rally but we were always glad. It could have been us, we often repeated.
Monday morning I remember driving to pick Susie up and seeing huge tanks sitting on the lawn of front campus and soldiers milling around. That was the first time I got really angry. I recall really loving the look of front campus and was furious that they had parked those tanks on the lawn. It was as if they had parked on the front lawn of my own home.
Somewhere around 2:00, I was teaching a lesson to my class with my master teacher observing when the school librarian ran into my room and told me there were riots on the Kent campus and some students had been shot.
Despite the objections of my supervisor, I ran out of the room and into the library where the radio was on. I recall the radio saying they were closing the city to all incoming cars so I knew I had to get back fast. The librarian called the schools where the two people I drove were teaching and left messages that I would pick them right up.
At that point they weren't releasing the names of the students who were killed or injured on the radio so we were all concerned. It could be our friends, our boyfriends -- it was terrible.
Much of what followed was a blur. I recall, once again, being met at the highway exit by police who allowed us off the highway. I dropped off my friends and went back to my apartment where everyone was frantic. They were advising everyone to leave town so I took three of my friends to my parents home in Cleveland. It took us hours to get out of town. Everyone was trying to get out on the same few roads.
When we got home, we stayed glued to the television watching commentators recount the activities of the day. I'll never forget one of the newspeople, Dorothy Fuldheim, crying on TV and shaking her head.
We stayed in Cleveland for another day and then ventured back to Kent. The dorms were closed but since we lived in an apartment and all of us were student teaching, we could go back.
I remember a very, very sad return. After a few days, the campus was eerily quiet. I think people were able to get back into their dorms to take their things out but there weren't many of us left in town. Things had changed so dramatically. Many of us walked around the parking lot at Prentice, all around "blanket hill", up and down the hill at the architecture building looking for the bullet holes in the metal sculpture and on the trees. My friends and I had all met while freshmen living in Prentice and that area had been our stomping grounds.
That summer I finished my classwork and got involved in a group that worked on student - townspeople relations. There was so much animosity. I remember some townspeople saying terribly beligerant things about students. I recall sitting in on the President's Council's discussions and leading a few meetings of students and townspeople. It was then that Dennis Carey began working on the Center for Peaceful Change. I also took part in Jerry Lewis' interviews with townspeople on their attitudes towards the May 4 incident.
A couple of years later, I returned to Kent as a graduate student and was the resident director at Engleman Hall. Before the students came back I was going through the forms that the students signed when they checked in and out of their rooms. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting on the floor with a thick pile of forms and a wastebasket where I was pitching old forms. All of a sudden I came across Allison Krause's form. I was shocked. She had signed in but, of course, never had the opportunity to check out.
I just sat there for a minute, knowing, of course, that I couldn't possibly throw out that form. I called Dennis Carey and told him someone should have this form and save it. I read that it is now in the inventory of the May 4 archives. I'm so glad it got saved. I always felt other people should feel the impact of the young woman whose life was ended.
In retrospect, I feel overwhelming sadness about the events that occurred 30 years ago. I've driven back to Kent many times and every time, walk around the Prentice parking lot and up and down the hill near the architecture building retelling what happened to whomever I'm with.