Ron Vederman, Personal Narrative
Submitted via email, April 30, 2000
May 4th, 1970 and the events leading up to that date will forever be in my memory. On May 4th, I was a 19-year-old sophomore from University Heights, Ohio. I lived off campus in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house and was a member of the Gymnastics team. I introduce these two elements because they would have an impact on my role in the shootings.
During the days leading up to the shootings, I observed several activities involving student protests. These included evening protests in downtown Kent where I recall running from the smoke and smell of tear gas. I perceived this event casually and even made it a game trying to outrun and not be seen by the police. The other activity I recall was watching the flames of the ROTC building from the roof of my house on Saturday night. On Sunday night, I ventured onto campus out of curiosity and was impressed by the helicopter searchlights and the smell of tear gas. There was not much going on that I observed so I returned to my house.
On Monday morning, I had a scheduled class that I walked to. Upon entering the building, I learned that class had been cancelled so I proceeded to return home. This was approximately 11:00 am. My route home took me past the Commons where a gathering of students had begun to conduct a protest. The National Guard had assembled and the bell was being rung. I moved past the National Guard line and proceeded to the hill just past the bell. The Guard about the assembly being unlawful made announcements, students were shouting at the Guard, and in general it was a tense atmosphere in broad daylight unlike the night I was playing hide and seek in the streets of Kent.
By this time, it was becoming warm so I removed my navy blue Gymnastics team jacket and placed it over my right arm that was holding my books. This was the profile photo taken of me from my right as I moved up the hill by an unidentified source (it appeared in the 1970 Yearbook). I would later be called by the Grand Jury investigating the shootings because of the possibly of my carrying a concealed weapon. Additionally, a few fraternity brothers were engaged in protests and I was questioned about that as well. It was an intimidating experience, being alone in front of the Grand Jury, not knowing if what I say was going to get a friend in trouble. Fortunately, I never heard from them again.
When the Jeeps and troops began moving up the hill, I stayed approximately 50 yards in front. Still with the intent of heading home, I moved into the parking lot constantly looking over my shoulder at the Guard behind me. Students were throwing rocks as well as invectives at the Guard.
My back was to the Guard when the shooting began. Bullets began striking the ground around me and I fell to the ground. When the shooting stopped, I rose and immediately began to walk away from the direction of the Guard. I noticed two male students also running away and one was holding his arm as it was bleeding. Almost immediately, police and ambulance sirens started. Some students were yelling for medical assistance on behalf others who were injured. I looked towards my left and saw several students gathered around a female with a bullet wound in the neck. A paramedic was attending her to. Although I did not recognize her at first, this was Sandy Scheuer who was a “Little Sister” of my fraternity and had been out on dates during the weekend with one of my fraternity brothers.
A flow of students began moving back through the parking lot to the Commons. I saw Jeffrey Miller’s body and a frightening image of student jumping up and down in his blood. When I got to the top of the hill on the Commons, I ran into my older brother, Ned, a senior. I had not realized he was there as well. Although several hundred students were gathered on the hill, and began yelling at the Guard, I recall an emotional plea from Dr. Glenn Frank, one of my professors, calling for us to leave. He said that the Guard would kill us if we did not leave. I believed him. I said goodbye to my brother and left for home walking back through the parking lot. Sandy Scheuer was still there, this time with an ambulance about ready to place her inside.
After the University closed, my brother drove home and I remained at the fraternity house for a day. When my parents saw Ned pull into the driveway, they panicked thinking something had happened to me and questioned him as to why I had not returned home. Once phone lines cleared, I was able to get through to them.
Jim Horst, a fraternity brother and my roommate drove to Toledo University (I forget why Toledo). I attended a rally on their campus and was standing near the front of the podium. I chatted with students around me and when they found out I was from Kent, I was asked to describe the scene to the crowd. I complied, but I have a hard time remembering what I said to the students other than describing the shootings to them.
Only one incident occurred that summer where I worked as a lifeguard and was wearing a t-shirt with the peace symbol on it. A pool member knew I was a Kent student and objected to my wearing the shirt. My boss backed me up and the member backed off. My own silent protest upon returning to campus in the Fall came via growing my hair long and growing a mustache. The gymnastics coach was not pleased, but gave me the slack to deal with the issue in that peaceful way.