06 January 2008


The Kent State massacre is meaningful for me in at least two ways. I was very much a participant in the anti-Vietnam War movement. The University of Kentucky campus was in the middle of demonstrations, in early May 1970 (I was a senior), when news came of the killings at Kent State University. Events escalated at U.K. and the National Guard were called out (by the Republican governor). (My brother still jokingly accuses me of setting fire to the ROTC building. As it happened, I was only close by when flames commenced to light up the night sky).

Skip down 13 years: After Peace Corps/Jamaica, I received a full scholarship to Ohio University, Athens, OH, to study Geography (MA, plus MA International Affairs). I joined the local food co-op and checked the bulletin board for housing. I made arrangements to meet a person who owned a house in the country. At the appointed time, in rolls an intense redhead guy, full-bearded, in wheelchair, but exuding joie de vivre, named Dean.

Almost immediately upon moving in, he shows me photos of the Kent State shootings, graphically convincing (with his explanation of events that transpired before the shootings) of the culpability--i.e., intentional guilt--of the commander of the Ohio National Guard, who was there on the very spot, and the (Republican) governor of Ohio, who the yesternight had been in telephone consultation with Pres. Richard M. Nixon. The close-up photos show about six National Guard riflemen kneeling in Minuteman position with telltale, simultaneous puffs of smoke issuing out their rifle ends and the State Commander with a metal baton, like a symphony conductor's, who in that instant has just brought his arm downward, in orchestration of coordinated fire and massacre and suffering. In that instant, bullets exploded flesh; lives (including mine) changed forever.

The person with whom I had just moved in was Dean Kahler, the most seriously wounded of the survivors of the Kent State students, shot in the back and left paraplegic (and bitter).

There is, however, a partial good ending to the story. The year I lived with Dean, he ran for one of the three County Commissioner positions. I became his de facto political campaign manager. Dean won the election. I got a good story.

I just googled Dean Kahler and...cold chills and tears are still flowing. Seems Dean is married and living in the same house as when I and my wife lived with him in 1984. His wife Julia says Dean is not bitter and never has been. (I humbly beg to differ re the bitterness, although Dean was definitely not overtly so, as his mom and I discussed back then.) However, and to Dean's GREAT credit, he is still taking the role of peacemaker and recommending forgiveness to the others who were shot or had loved ones shot. What a big-hearted guy! Dean, please contact me (lee stone), if you read this! I heard your interview on National Public Radio a few years ago.

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