Harold Greenberg of Cleveland was a 25-year-old graduate teaching assistant at Kent State University and a reporter for the student newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater, on May 4, 1970. He also had a premonition of what was to come on that day.
“The very sad part for me was at about 10 o’clock that morning when I was in the Stater office in Taylor Hall overlooking the commons and our wire editor came in,” recalled Greenberg, 68. “I told him that I feel something bad is going to happen. Somebody is going to get killed.”
Greenberg returned to the campus Oct. 20 for the opening of the new May 4 Visitors Center, which coincided with homecoming. He recalled the tragic 13 seconds in which 76 members of the Ohio National Guard fired 67 shots at students. When the bullets stopped flying, four students were dead and nine were injured. Jeffrey Miller of New York, Allison Krause of Maryland, Sandra Scheuer of Youngstown – all Jewish – and William Schroeder of Lorain were killed.
Until Oct. 20, the university had paid tribute to the day with a walking tour and four posts that mark the location where the students died.
The three-gallery, multi-media exhibit in Taylor Hall, overlooking the hill where the shootings occurred, holds special meaning for Greenberg, a member of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah in Beachwood. A story he wrote for the student newspaper on April 23, 1970, hangs inside the museum. He wrote that hundreds assembled in front of the campus Hub to show that they were “willing to prevent a dog from being napalmed but won’t do anything to stop human beings in Vietnam from receiving the same treatment.”
Greenberg was surprised to see his story included.
“When I went through the center, I was completely astounded and humbled and overcome that they had chosen to put that story in there, and I suddenly became part of this whole terrible event,” he said. “Maybe that highlighted a paradox, if you will, to what we were willing to do and not willing to do. It was a numbing experience that was going to bring to your front door what happens when you napalm an animal.”
Donations of $1.1 million from veterans groups, the public, the university and the National Endowment for the Humanities funded the 1,900-square-foot museum on the ground floor of the former student newspaper office.
The center has galleries about the social movements of the 1960s, the Vietnam War and the shootings and their aftermath. A map shows the 132 college campuses where protests happened between April 30 and May 4 after President Richard Nixon announced an escalation of the war. A timeline and film help recreate the May 4 events.
“It is an absolutely amazing museum,” said Greenberg, who became a financial services specialist for American National Insurance Co. in Canton after working for newspapers in Canton and Dayton. “It is really astonishing. A tremendous amount of work and care went into putting this together. It is really, really moving and special.”
Greenberg’s sons Daniel and Ethan graduated from KSU in the mid-1990s, when he started to attend annual May 4 events.
Greenberg was born in Liverpool, England, and grew up in London. He came to the United States after his bar mitzvah, living in Houston before moving to Cleveland in 1958. He is a Cleveland Heights High School graduate.
“In 2000, I pretty much spearheaded a reunion of Kent Stater and Chestnut Burr (yearbook) staffs, and the staffs hadn’t been together since May 4, to bring closure,” he said, “but I found out it’s not really possible to have closure. It’s always there.”
WHAT: May 4 Visitors Center
WHERE: Taylor Hall, Kent State University
WHEN: Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Group tours by appointment, 330-672-4660