I made a promise forty-four years ago, that the spirit of Allison Beth Krause would live on in my heart.
A freshman at Kent State, Allison was a bright-eyed woman-child, eager to take in all that life had to offer. An honor student taking classes on African-American history, art, and psychology, she loved a boy named Barry, a recording artist named Melanie, and a kitten named Yossarian.
On Monday, May 4, 1970, in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, Ohio National Guard soldiers advanced on students gathering for an antiwar rally. For a few moments, Allison stood boldly on the Commons, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Then, she ran.
She and Barry ran toward the parking lot and hid behind a car. When the Guardsmen knelt and aimed their bayonetted rifles at the students, they reasoned that it was all show, a bluff. There had been no warning shot. And anyway, who could imagine the National Guard shooting into a rally of unarmed, white, middle-class college students?
Sixty-seven shots were fired in 13 seconds. Allison whispered to Barry, “I’m hit.” Hours later, Allison’s parents and little sister Laurel were told about her death from neighbors who’d heard the news on the radio.
I remember, as if in a dream, how word of the Kent State killings spread across the little college campus in the middle of Pennsylvania, where I, too, was a politically-involved, bright-eyed freshman. In my memory of that soft dusk, we all seemed to be running and whispering, whispering, whispering the news. I remember the shock. I remember thinking, “This is real! This is real! It could have been me. It could have been me.”
My parents got the Krause’s address and sent a sympathy card. They wrote that they had a daughter — Pamela Marie — the same age as Allison, who also participated in campus peace rallies. Allison’s parents wrote back to mine saying they hoped I would carry on the legacy of the passion for justice, enthusiasm, and love which had characterized Allison’s brief life.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to grow up. Through the years, the ones taken from Allison, I’ve been blessed with a widening circle of friends and a range of experiences I could never have dreamed of back in college.
I’m glad I lived to meet Barbara Deming and learn about feminism and nonviolence. I’m grateful that I had the chance to grow to adulthood and follow my passion for chronicling generations of women’s resistance and action. I like to think of myself as the witness, the one who remembers, the troubadour who tells the tale as I wander, so that our stories will live on. My journey has led me to a river of courage. It is this river that sustains me. I am in awe of it and honor it by remembering, remembering.
Sometimes, when lists of martyrs are read and each name is affirmed by the crowd with the cry “¡Presènte!,” I whisper the woman-child’s name in my heart. “Allison Krause. ¡Presènte!”
To Go Deeper
Kent State Truth Tribunal: http://truthtribunal.org
Photo caption #1: My peace movement mementos from 1970.
Caption #2: Newspapers across the country ran with the photo by John Filo. It became the iconic image of the Kent State shootings and won the Pulitzer Prize.
YouTube: “Ohio,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” http://youtube.com/watch?v=MN_9VqfVQ9c