“I saw the muzzle flashes. ‘Oh, my god.’ ” — Couple implored students to avoid Kent State protest, then watched shootings in horror

CLEVELAND.COM

On May 4, 1970, Jim Banks was having lunch at Kent State University’s Wright Hall dormitory where he was resident director, when a group of students approached him.

“Come on, Mr. Banks, aren’t you going to the rally?” one student asked.

“No, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do,” Banks replied.

“Well, we’re just going to watch, we’re not going to do anything,” the student said.

“Don’t you get it? By going to watch, you are creating a crowd,” Banks said. “Do not go!”

The students departed and Banks went back to his office, grabbed a pair of binoculars and focused on “Blanket Hill” near Taylor Hall where members of the Ohio National Guard faced hundreds of youths in the latest round of three days of anti-war protest.

Suddenly a group of Guardsmen were kneeling, pointing their rifles, and Banks witnessed a horror that continues to echo 50 years later.

There will not be a commemoration of the tragedy this year, due to concerns regarding the novel coronavirus, as there has every year since that day when four Kent State students were shot and killed, nine wounded.

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