It was odd to me when I read the weekly writing challenge that this was the song that popped into my head. Not that I don’t like it but it’s never been a favorite. It creates vivid images for me though.
On May 4, 1970 I was a senior in high school and not really looking forward to going to college. In a small school with no AP or honors classes I’d been so bored in school for so long that I couldn’t imagine enjoying education. After the Kent State shootings on May 4 I was afraid to go.
By May 4, 1971 I was happily ensconced at Northwestern University and enjoying being challenged by my classes and classmates. I’d not yet become radicalized but new ideas were sweeping into my narrow consciousness. I remember that May 4 as I walked to and from classes periodically CSNY’s Ohio blared from a dorm-room window and it was haunting. A feeling of mourning hung over the campus.
Sophomore year saw me protesting and marching. I remember a big march in downtown Chicago at which the mounted police were out in force and menacing everyone on the outer edges of the march. Kent State still loomed at that point, along with the brutality toward protesters at the Democratic convention in 1968. I marched with tense awareness that a beating or a gunshot could be part of my experience — as I’m sure was true for most of us there. But we felt so strongly about the war that we knew we had to go.
Whenever I hear Ohio I feel the tensions and passions of those anti-war days. Images of the photos from Kent State and of my friends in their Afros and long locks and torn hip-hugger jeans dance through my head. Those were amazing times. For me that song brings them vibrantly present–hard to believe more than 40 years have passed.