KENT, Ohio -- The mother of one of four students killed at Kent State University 20 years ago welcomed Friday's dedication of a memorial but said the slain students are not resting in peace.
'Considering the circumstances, I do not believe they can rest in peace,' said Florence Schroeder, mother of William Schroeder. 'But I do believe they can revel in the glory which is heaven.'
About 4,000 people attended the ceremony despite steady rain and cool temperatures, a marked contrast to the warm sunny day on May 4, 1970, when four days of protests at Kent State against the invasion of Cambodia ended with the shootings.
The protests began on May 1, 1970, the day after President Nixon announced the invasion.
'They were here for two reasons,' Schroeder said of the protesters. 'They objected to the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the bombing of Cambodia. They also could not tolerate the police-state atmosphere presented by the Ohio National Guard and the political actions of Gov. James A. Rhodes.'
It was Rhodes who sent the guard to the campus and it was Rhodes who visited the school the day before the shootings, calling the students 'brownshirts' and 'vigilantes' and threatening to 'employ every weapon possible' to end the violence.
Rhodes was reported several years ago to have felt 'personal remorse' over the incident but never said so publicly.
Former Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, was also asked to helped dedicate the memorial.
'I came without any sense of pleasure, but as a duty, an honor, to recognize all of the people who died in the Vietnam struggle, both Americans and Vietnamese,' McGovern said. 'I think this was the most tragic episode in American foreign policy history.
'The shootings at Kent State and the shootings at Jackson State did give a new and passionate effort to attempts to stop the war,' McGovern said. 'There was a common humanity that was touched when, here in our country, people died as a result of the war.'
It was those beliefs that made Schroeder believe her son ' absolutely did not die in vain.'
'I do believe the killings here helped to bring an earlier end to the war than otherwise would have occurred,' she said.
Brig. Gen. Charles Fassinger, 59, who as a lieutenant colonel was the senior uniformed officer at Kent State on May 4, 1970, said he came 'because I was asked to speak for the guard.'
'The guard's side has never been told, except in a court of law,' Fassinger said. 'I was responsible for the troops that day and I guess I'm still responsible 20 years later.
'They (the guardsmen) felt their lives were in danger. That's why they fired. I had 20 years' experience and I certainly was not very comfortable. The guard was not some monolithic thing. They were people and they had families to go home to.'
Gov. Richard Celeste took part in Friday's memorial dedication ceremonies and, on behalf of the state, said, 'I am sorry.' He recalled his campaign for a seat in the state house of representatives being interrupted by the news in 1970.
'I felt disbelief that we had turned our weapons on our own children,' Celeste said. 'I felt angered that a distant war in the name of democracy had invaded so close to home to threaten democracy. I felt pain.'
About 3,000 people participated in a candelight march at 11 p.m. Thursday and some stayed the rest of the night for a vigil. The crowd grew again Friday morning, estimated by campus police at 4,000.
On that fateful day 20 years ago, about 75 guardsmen were atop Blanket Hill shortly after noon and appeared to be retreating from a large group of students who were taunting them and throwing rocks. Suddenly, 28 guardsmen turned and fired, killing four students and wounding nine.
Also in the crowd Friday were 50 to 75 members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, hoping to remind people of the cause of the protest that ended with the shootings.
'We say never forget, never again,' said Dave Cline of Jersey City, N.J. 'You're not going to get kids to fight in Central America if they know about Vietnam.'
The memorial consists of a granite plaza with four black granite disks leading from the plaza into a wooded area where four pylons are aligned. Nearby, the school planted 58,175 daffodils in memory of those killed in the Vietnam War.
The memorial does not include the names of the students shot to death but the school, under pressure, placed a plaque near the memorial with the names Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer.