Today I had a meeting on the campus of Kent State University. Though around here, Kent is known for its excellent public radio station and for black squirrels (escapees from an experiment), lots of people know it for the shootings.
In 1970 the National Guard came out, shot some demonstrating students, and killed four. I provide this information in case you are too young to listen to Crosby Stills Nash (& Young) songs and remain unaware of this.
In a strange compromise between pretending the whole thing never happened and memorializing the students, Kent State University erected black pylons in the parking lot where students were hit, a little square of black posts marking each victim’s place at the time of the shooting.
But it’s still a parking lot.
So as I went to meet my client at the Kent State University Library, that’s where I parked. Why? Because my friend Marsha, who works there said, “Here’s a parking pass,” and gave me a hang-tag for my car. “Park in the lot where they shot people.”
Oh, that one…
The fact is, I’ve lived in this part of Ohio for a while now, and I’ve even been to the annual May 4th remembrances of the whole awful thing, and so I knew right where she was talking about. On the 4th, when all the hubbub is going on, there are no cars and the atmosphere is sort of reverent and a little rowdy – with overtones of “Down with The Man.” The rest of the time it’s just a parking lot. With what look like hitching posts grouped in some of the spaces. If you didn’t know better, you would think they were marking off areas to fill in potholes.
I sort of wonder what people on campus visits think — prospective students and their parents, visiting dignitaries, new professors — “hey, what’re those?” they might ask.
“Oh, that’s where the National Guard killed some people.”
“In the parking lot?”
But not just anybody can park with the dead. Without a pass, they’ll tow you.