Out in the world, when people talk about the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, they call it “Kent State.” But in the small town of Kent, 35 miles south of Cleveland, and on the university campus, they call it “May 4th.”
It was 40 years ago Tuesday that the shootings ”” which killed four people and wounded nine others ”” stunned the nation. Even at the height of the Vietnam War protests, no one imagined that government soldiers would fire real bullets at unarmed college students.
“I saw the smoke come out of the weapons, and light is faster than sound, and so I knew immediately [they] were not firing blanks. So it was almost instinctive to dive for cover,” remembers Jerry Lewis, who was 33 and teaching sociology at Kent State in 1970.