Friday, May 7, 2010



"It destroyed my life," is how Mary Ann Vecchio said of the massacre at Kent State University in May of 1970. This was said during an interview she gave in 1990 for the 20th anniversary of the event. It wasn't that she was a big anti-war protester or part of a student movement. What she was, a 14-year old runaway who was at for her, the wrong place at the wrong time for her.

Reading the USA Today article on Kent State and the iconic photo of her emotional reaction to Jeff Miller's fallen body and trauma that it brought into her life, I could at once understand how she felt at one time that her life had been destroyed. As complicated as her life must have been prior to being at Kent State (she was from Florida and lives there now with her Mom), it REALLY had to become an overwhelming intruder in her life that she never expected to deal with.

It doesn't matter that she was already at risk as a teenage runaway. That was her choice. Did she mean to be a part of the war protest? I don't know. So I am conjecturalizing about how she suffered from a totally unintended consequence as a result of her trying to find herself in the world. And I am also sure that it took a bit of time after 1990 for her to come to grips with what Kent State did to her.

There are things that have happened in my neat, fairly bland and unassuming life that were like what Kent State was to Mary Ann. Events that all of the troubles of a life can be tied to and why I know that my tide has risen and fell without me setting sail for my fortunes.

Speaking about the details of what made for the difference in perspective over events doesn't seem to be of any benefit to me. All my attention is best paid to moving beyond things, be it my own guilt or any percieved transgression that I may have suffered.

I have never had any use for the emotional, dramatic, 'why' conversation. I don't wonder about 'what if' because whatever something could have been is lost to the unknown. It all went out with the tide.

Mary Ann carried the bitterness of what her role at Kent State for a long time. Imagine the weight of the consequence of her being there had on her life. Not only was her life trouble prior to the the massacre, the photo and the reaction she had to endure afterward had to be an incredible burden. She doesn't have to apologize for taking however long she took before she came to terms with the death of a life.

And neither do I need to apologize for taking until now to morn the death of mine.


LceeL said...

My Gramps used to say, "No use cryin' over spilt milk." Right before he would say, "You've made your bed, now lay in it."

Those things sound a bit harsh, I know, especially in the context presented here - as a comment on your post. But they aren't meant to be harsh so much as to show you that what you feel - what you are experiencing, is not new, you are not alone, this stuff has been around for a long time and is going to remain part of hte human experience whether we like it or not.

We all make choices. We all have to live with the consequences of those choices whether the choices were well made or not.

You can't change what's happened. You can only learn from it and make new and better choices going forward.

I don't know if any of this makes sense or not - it's just me and my reaction to you and your reaction to your choices.

That corgi :) said...

again I really like Lceel's comment; I think he summed it up really well Mark. I tell my son when "mistakes" are made to see what he can learn from them so he doesn't repeat the same action again; I think we all have things we would have chosen to do different in our lives and have consequences as a result of them, but learning to perhaps make wiser choices as a result should be a goal, I do think

(I'm off to Montana for a week so if you don't "see" me, you'll know where I'm at :)


DB said...

Mary Ann was thrown head first into the water at a too young age, or a too old age perhaps. I have been to interviews where the interviewer would say "Tell me about yourself." How can I tell you about myself when what I am has been so conditioned by the things that have happened to me. Sometimes the processing has to go on for a long time. Kent State is gone and forgotten about about mostly, There are 14 year olds who are about to get thrown into the water who don't know it yet. I'm for the adaptability and resilience of the human being. The scars may remain and the life is altered but we attend to it.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It was a very tough time, with lots of misconceptions and assumptions. At least it did not continue to escalate.

Jonthy, Alice the uppity white cat's babysitter said...

Mark, in the article it says that Ms. Vecchio who, despite a broken foot, will return to campus for May 4 observances, says Kent State had to face its legacy: "It's something that happened that you have to respect. It was never going to go away. You can't shove it under the rug."

We all need to remember our mistakes, our tragedies, and try to respect that fact that we can't change our history. To forget that they ever happened is to risk repeating them.

LYN said...


Thomas said...

One of my favorite songs is Willie Nelson's Nothing I Can Do About It Now.

I've always liked the line "I've forgiven every thing that forgiveness will allow, and there's nothing I can do about it now." Acceptance. It's not always easy to do.