Friday, August 17, 2007

Kent State shooting victim Jim Russell dies

This is old news, from June, but it's personal. Jim Russell lived just down the road from my dad. I met him on several occasions. He remains part of that cherished spot in my heart and memory from my childhood, my roots, the only roots I have - on Meissner Mountain in Oregon. I moved around so much as a child that the only place that still belongs in my family remains my hippie father's homestead and rustic log cabin. That land is part of my heart, and all the people who live there. I grew up there every summer, and for 2 years (3rd and 4th grade) rode a school bus all the way to Rainier. Jim and Nelda lived down the road, nearly one of our closest neighbors at a couple miles away.

My dad told me that Jim died of a heart attack recently - on June 23, 2007. His wife Nelda was pouring him an Epsom Salt Bath and he slumped over and called out, as the reports said, "I think I'm dying" and then, "Oh God," more surprised than scared. What I didn't know until Dad told me was that Jim was one of the 9 survivors of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 - where the National Guard shot at nonviolent Vietnam war protestors. Four died, nine were injured. Jim was shot in the head and leg. Ironically, Jim says he was not even involved in the protest but was on his way to turn in an art project (however he had participated in other protests). As one of the shooting victims, he got fired from his job, and the university told him he didn't need to finish, he could just take his diploma (he was a senior). Not only that, his dad got fired from his job. These kids were targeted as "dissenters" and anti-American.

So he eventually moved to the woods of Oregon, like my dad, where they met. Until my dad told me, I honestly didn't even know Jim was one of the 9 survivors but my dad went to his wake which had a lot of the Kent State survivors there. From what I've read, Jim didn't talk about it for many years, since for many years he worried they would still come after him. The Kent State survivors have all kept in contact over the years. I've been reading about it and it has moved me to tears. In some ways, our country has not alienated war dissenters like they did then. But we, the public, have not staged as massive and united a movement as the hippie generation did. Who knows what our government would do if we did. I don't have a lot of faith that it would be much different.

Eight members of the National Guard were indicted by a grand jury, but they claimed self defense, and basically that was accepted. But in May 2007, one of the injured, Alan Canfora, requested that the case be re-opened after a videotape was found at Yale University on which the clearly distinguishable audio can be heard, "Right here! Get set! Point! Fire!" just before they fired into the crowd. I don't think he's made much progress.

Kent State's May 4 Task Force - has a memorial to Jim.
The Oregonian has a piece "The Long Road Back from Kent State."

Long live the right to dissent, and peacable demonstration! A Jim Russell memorial fund has been established through Rivermark Community Credit Union, 4875 S.W. Griffith Park, Beaverton, OR, 97005. 1-800-452-8502.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Wendee. Those were such astonishing times. We need to remember people like Jim Russell and others like him.