Tuesday, July 05, 2005

zoned for tragedy

Since Sunday I've been staying at Kent State, a large university in Northeast Ohio infamous as the site where four students were shot protesting the Vietnam War, on May 4th, 1970. It's strange walking around the campus, seeing the little reminders that seem to haunt the place. There is a May 4th research room in the library, where I suppose you can read all about the horrible events of that day and the context in which they happened.

I haven't visited that room yet, but I did walk over to the parking lot across the street from the building where we are staying. This is where the shootings actually occurred, and three parking spaces have been marked off as a May 4th memorial. In the corner of each space is a marble slab engraved with the name of the student who fell and died there.

a macabre parking spot at Kent State Posted by Picasa

The spot shown here has a plaque with the name of one of the victims, and while it is not her actual burial place, it still seems odd and somewhat grisly to park next to it. So much of our architecture, especially at a university, seems to proclaim the grandeur, optimism, and permanence of human achievements. Even if it were not in a parking lot, I think this display of human cruelty, senselessness, and fragility would come as a shocking reminder. People die all the time, it seems to be saying, in all kinds of horrible ways, and we can't really consecrate every human resting place; or else we would have nowhere left to park our cars.

No comments: