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Journey observes Kent State shootings

By PAMELA GRINER LEAVY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


TAMPA -- Barbara Child is disappointed that the thousands of bright-yellow daffodils that blanket the hillside of Kent State University already have lost their blooms. The flowers were planted for the Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam.

Four large, granite blocks are nearby, one for each of the students gunned down on May 4, 1970, by Ohio National Guard soldiers. Nine students were wounded.

The memorials serve as reminders of an unpopular war and a tragic afternoon on the Kent State campus three decades ago.

Child, now the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, taught English at Kent State from 1963 to 1978.

She stood in a crowd of onlookers at noon that day and witnessed the anti-war demonstration and chaos surrounding the shootings.

Today, Child is back on the Kent State campus for the official observance, called 30th Commemoration of May 4, 1970. A task force of current and former Kent students has added its own theme: Peace: Learn It. Live It. Teach It. "My coming here is to have reunion with people, to honor the memories and be reminded yet again of what government can do, what misguided public officials in their naivete allow to happen," Child said.

She planned to participate in a candlelight march Wednesday from 11 p.m. to midnight. This morning, she planned to stand vigil for Sandy Scheuer. Investigators say the 20-year-old student was on her way to speech class when she was shot and killed by soldiers 390 feet away.

Also killed that day were Allison Krause, 19, William Knox Schroeder, 19, and Jeffrey Glen Miller, 20.

The vigil ends today at 12:20 p.m., the time the shootings occurred. Students who were wounded in 1970 and the families of those who died will be honored.

"It isn't ancient history to students who now go to Kent State and that's a miracle to me," Child said. "The young students at Kent today weren't even born and we always think they will come out and laugh at us old folks, but they are always here."

Child looks forward to sharing her Kent State experience with her congregation at Unitarian Universalist Church this Sunday.

"Barbara's connection to Kent State has brought a richness to our congregation, in terms of her experiences there and her ability to make all of that time in our history so real and so alive for us," said Liz Bleau, president of the church's board of trustees.

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