University reflects on Kent State massacre

PLATTSBURGH - Forty years ago, the United States was a country in turmoil. The Vietnam War, sexual revolution and racial tension all contributed to the atmosphere surrounding universities at the time.

One of the most telling moments in the era, the Kent State massacre, recently commemorated its anniversary, with a small remembrance event at the base of Kehoe Administration building on the State University of New York at Plattsburgh campus.

A small group of those wishing to remember the impact of that day gathered under a thunderous sky, singing and speaking on what that day meant for everyone in the U.S., then and now.

Susan Kelley, one of the people at the event alive at the time of the Kent State massacre, said she still remembers that "awful" day, when "fear and anger, and all those emotions mixed up," arose in college campuses all around the nation.

"I want to believe it was an accident, but those troops were ordered to the campus," Kelley said. "Those students were doing their civic duty in protesting the war."

Kelley said she comes to the remembrance event every year her work schedule allows her. This year, she watched as students and faculty stood and spoke on the lessons that could be learned from the massacre, even 40 years later.

"It is very important to realize we are in a country where we have freedom of speech," said Amanda Thompson, the Student Association's director of communications. "But, it is also important to remember to defend this freedom."

Julius Archibald, another attendee who survived one of the toughest times in American history, said, "we need to make sure this never happens again."

"The nation was led into a war we really shouldn't have been in," said Archibald.

Archibald compared today to yesterday, citing excuses for the Iraq and Afghanistan war, healthcare debates and tea parties as similarities to the polarization over the critical social issues during the '60s and '70s.

Referring to today and the past, Archibald claimed, "the nation was doing things out of convenience, not conviction."

The event closed with a song from Plattsburgh State's gospel choir, and with remarks from students and faculty.

"College shapes us into intellectual warriors," Student Association president Charlie Peppers said. "Cracking a book is more lethal than throwing a grenade."

Michael O'Keefe is an intern with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

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