After my mother died, my brother and I had to find time to clean out the house we grew up in- an old three story, full-basement brick almost victorian home in Pottstown. Over that spring and summer we’d each take several days off to drive back to Pottstown hoping to clear out the junk. Instead, seeing each other in the old house, in the rooms we used to play in, we’d reminisce over everything we picked up: An old SORRY! game piece, a Boy Scout shoulder patch, a toy soldier. The drawers full of old junk made it a longer process than it needed to be. Mom had been 75, and she recorded our history with stacks of newspaper clippings mixed with letters, drawings, postcards and coupons on any available surface. If a stack got too large, it would go into a Chock full o’Nuts coffee can before being placed back on the counter, radiator (“convector” as my dad would insist), or refrigerator top.
My brother sat going through stacks on my dad’s dresser, and I was sorting through things on my mom’s. There I found this photo of my latin class banquet; Mom must have clipped it from the local newspaper. The long hair had been real. The sandals, too, were the style, but the toga was just for the occasion. I remembered being at the Latin banquet. It was in the basement of the First Federal Bank building and I’d walked to it in my toga with Neil. We’d waved to his dad and uncle, still at work in their produce warehouse. I even remembered a few of the mistakes I’d made in the prepared ceremony, but I didn’t remember ever seeing the photo. As I held it for the first time I was taken with how beautiful Martha was and how young I looked- I was almost old enough to register for the draft. I turned the small piece of newspaper over to see what sort of dated advertisement might be on the back and I instantly realized why I had never noticed the photo Mom clipped.
The caption under a photo segment is partially missing. What is there reads,
… WOUNDED- Kent State University students … the aid of a wounded youth. Ohio National … men, on campus because of disturbances the … days, fired into a crowd of students Monday, killing four students and wounding 11 others …
Life after the Kent State shootings went on as usual for most, but the news report had stunned me. Of all the events that shaped my generation, this one, happening four hundred miles away, helped create who I am.
It was suddenly real; no longer just rhetoric. The government, whose opinions and policies we verbally opposed had armed itself against us. The world was listening. That summer I did hear the drumming, and it has never stopped. Though I may forget the names of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder, their deaths will always be a part of my life.