Denise D'Aurora, Personal Narrative
Submitted via email, January 24, 2000
My memories of May 4 really begin with the night that Nixon announced that we were invading Cambodia. I was a freshman, living in Metcalf Hall, and after dinner there was an enormous water balloon fight in the plaza in the center of the four dorms that made up the quad. Someone yelled that Nixon was on TV, and a lot of us went in to listen. I remember feeling like we went in to the TV lounge as kids, and stumbled out as adults. I had a number of friends with low draft numbers, and worried about that.
The next day, I was leaving Bowman hall after an 11:00 class, and people were shouting, "Rally at noon, on the Commons!" Out of curiosity, I went over, as several students symbolically buried the Constitution. I remember talking about the escalation of the war in a class that afternoon.
It wasn't until later on Saturday morning that I heard about the disturbances downtown. I was surprised when we were ordered to stay on campus that night--there had been disorderly conduct on Water St. in the fall, with no such reaction, and a number of upperclassmen said that things like this happened before with very little response. A lot of my friends stayed in the dorms, hopping in and out of each other's rooms.
On Sunday morning I was walking with a group to the Newman Center to Mass, when we saw a tank. We knew that the ROTC building had been on fire, but didn't realize the extent of things. We went over and asked one of the Guardsman what was going on. He turned to us, and with a venom that I will remember forever said, "Suppose you tell us!" I felt like I had been physically struck.
Rumor flew through the dorms the rest of that day. I don't know anyone who got anything accomplished. I talked with my mother, and with friends on other campuses. It seemed that people away from Kent knew more than we did, in retrospect I know their information was more accurate than ours. The two most surprising events were the opening of our dorm cafeterias for the Sunday evening meal (normally we had to fend for ourselves on Sunday nights) and the arrival of helicopters, complete with searchlights, circling overhead as we walked to get dinner.
The only thing that kept me from being on the Commons around the time of the shooting on Monday was a decision not to go to my morning classes. I had been up late the night before, talking about the occupation of our campus, the escalation of the war and other subjects, and just hit the snooze button on the alarm. Two of my roommates went off to their classes on a campus bus, only to spend forty-five minutes circling the campus lying on the floor of the bus at the direction of the driver. We knew that shots had been fired, but didn't know for sure that anyone had been killed for a few hours. By two or so, we were told that we needed to leave the campus. I got a ride with a student from an adjacent dorm. I hadn't been able to call my mother before I left--we couldn't get a dial tone on any phone until we were out of the 216 area code. When I finally did call, her line was busy, and unthinking, I asked the operator to interrupt the call. She later said that the minute or so until I called was the longest of her life.
I didn't know that I knew any of the students killed until later that evening, when the evening news showed Allison Krause's picture. We were both in the Honors College, had at least one class together in the fall, and I think one in the winter as well. She lived in Metcalf for the first two quarters, and had just moved out a few weeks before. We had been in a protest of sorts together in the fall--going right from our final exam in a class over to the office of the Dean of the Honors College to complain about a professor that had been assigned to teach the Honors section. Allison ended up on a student policy review committee as a result of the meeting. It was hard to imagine someone so lively and intelligent gone so quickly and senselessly.
The whole thing seemed so unbelievable and senseless then, and the passage of time makes it more unbelievable. From time to time, a high school student, usually the son or daughter of a friend, does a paper on the shootings, and interviews me. It is very difficult for them to imagine how such a thing could happen to students on a college campus. So many of us--students, guardsmen, soldiers in Southeast Asia--all in the wrong places at the wrong time.