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Kent State tragedy 38 years ago today had Miami-Dade connection - 05/04/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

Kent State tragedy 38 years ago today had Miami-Dade connection

lyanez@MiamiHerald.com

Mary Ann Vecchio, 14, screams as she kneels by the body of student Jeffrey Miller on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine others.
JOHN FILO / AP
Mary Ann Vecchio, 14, screams as she kneels by the body of student Jeffrey Miller on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine others.

Sunday marks the 38th anniversary of the fatal shootings by members of the Ohio National Guard of four Kent State University students during an anti-Vietnam war demonstration on campus.

During the melee that ensued on the Kent State campus that day, a senior journalism major, John Filo, snapped a now-famous scene that day had a strong Miami-Dade connection:

The photograph showed a screaming long-haired Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of student Jeffrey Miller, who had been fatally wounded. Although she looked older, Vecchio was a 14-year runaway from Opa-locka who had friends on the Kent State campus.

In a History Channel video interview years later, Vecchio, now 52, said she instinctively ran toward Miller, who had been shot in the mouth after lobbing a tear-gas canister back at guardsmen who had ordered the demonstrators to disband.

''There was so much blood. I knew he was dead,'' she said of Miller, whom she had met on campus. ``I wanted to help, but there was nothing to do, so I just screamed.''

Filo, who said he was on ''automatic pilot,'' clicked on the moment Vecchio reacted.

''She just let out with a scream. It was an automatic picture,'' he said in the same video interview. Largely fueled by the powerful photograph of Vecchio and Miller, the shootings at Kent State shocked the nation: American soldiers had opened fire on American students on an American college campus. Three of the four students killed had been among those challenging the guard, but one was on her way to class. Nine other students were wounded; one was left paralyzed.

College students launched more on campus demonstrations across the country denouncing the student killings and President Richard Nixon's escalation of the Vietnam War, which had sparked the fatal rally. Ten days after Kent State, two more students were killed at Jackson State University in Mississippi while demonstrating the actions of the Ohio National Guard.

The Kent State students killed on campus grounds that Monday 38 years ago today were: Allison Krause, Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song Ohio is in honor of the students.

The photograph by Filo went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Filo works for CBS.

Vecchio, one of six children of Frank and Claire Vecchio, a maintenance worker at the Port of Miami and a housewife, was recognized by her father in the photo that ran in major newspapers across the country. She was returned home from Indianapolis, where she went after the shootings.

Then-Florida Gov. Claude Kirk, chastised her involvement in the fatal rally telling reporters she had ''been planted there by the Communists.'' Her mother told the New York Times in 1990 that ''people wrote letters telling her daughter that she was responsible'' for the deaths for having taken part in the demonstration and ignoring orders from the guards.

''Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl having to deal with that?'' Claire Vecchio said.

Vecchio, who attended Westview Middle School, eventually settled in Las Vegas.

At a ceremony at Kent State last year to mark the 37th anniversary of the shootings, Vecchio said: ``We didn't do anthing wrong. We were just voicing our opinion right here on this lawn. We had the freedom to do that. ''

 

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