Kent State Shootings

1970
Photograph by John Paul Filo

I could see the tension building in this girl, and finally she let out with the scream, and I sort of reacted to the scream and shot that picture.

John Paul Filo

Kent State Shootings

  • John Paul Filo
  • 1970

The shooting at Kent State University in Ohio lasted 13 seconds. When it was over, four students were dead, nine were wounded, and the innocence of a generation was shattered. The demonstrators were part of a national wave of student discontent spurred by the new presence of U.S. troops in Cambodia. At the Kent State Commons, protesters assumed that the National Guard troops that had been called to contain the crowds were firing blanks. But when the shooting stopped and students lay dead, it seemed that the war in Southeast Asia had come home. John Filo, a student and part-time news photographer, distilled that feeling into a single image when he captured Mary Ann Vecchio crying out and kneeling over a fatally wounded Jeffrey Miller. Filo’s photograph was put out on the AP wire and printed on the front page of the New York Times. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and has since become the visual symbol of a hopeful nation’s lost youth. As Neil Young wrote in the song “Ohio,” inspired by a LIFE story featuring Filo’s ­images, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/ We’re finally on our own/ This summer I hear the drumming/ Four dead in Ohio.”

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