Monday, April 4, 2011

Jeffrey Miller - People Who Are Famous For Having Died

MARCH 28, 1950 - MAY 4, 1970
Ferncliff Mausoleum --  Ardsley, New York

As a  fifteen-year old, Jeffrey Miller had written an anti-war poem that ended:

In the pastures converted into battlefields
        the small metal pellets speed through the air,
                pausing occasionally to claim another victim.
        A teenager from a small Ohio farm clutches his side
        in pain and as he feels his life ebbing away, he too
                asks why-
        why is he dying here, thousands of miles from home,
        giving his life for those who did not even ask his help?
        The War Without a Purpose marches on relentlessly,
                not stopping to mourn for its dead,
                content to wait for its end.
        But all the frightened parents who still have their sons
                fear that
        the end is not in sight. 

He had gone to Michigan State University with his brother, but when Russ graduated, Jeffrey felt alone, so he transferred to a different college, this one in Ohio.

Five weeks after his twentieth birthday, Jeffrey had took part in a campus demonstration; he even picked up a stray canister of tear gas and hurled it at the National Guard keeping watch over the University. Like many people who had voted for Richard Nixon because he a platform of peace, Jeffrey was upset when Nixon announced plans to expand the Vietnam War by sending troops into Cambodia. 

Later it would be discovered that Jeffrey was 265 feet away from the armed Guardsmen  – almost the length of a football field. The coroner’s report showed that he was shot once – through the mouth – through a mouth opened to scream in horror or gasp that America had turned to such tyranny or awe at the fact he was a transfer, a student of Kent State for barely six months. Before he could finish his thought, a shell from one of the 29 M-1 rifles being fired at him and his fellow students tore through the back of his throat. He was dead before he hit the ground, before a horrified fourteen year old girl could begin to scream over his corpse, before the shutter on the photographer's camera snapped. 

The Guardsmen claimed they were in fear for their lives as they turned and opened fire on the unarmed crowd, most of whom were standing in a parking lot 300 feet away.

Jeffrey's body was joined by Sandra Scheuer, an honor student who was walking across campus with a friend to her speech therapy class – her major. She was shot through the throat – from 400 feet away — and bled out in five minutes.

They were joined by Allison Krause, who earlier in the week had fatefully told friends, “flowers are better than bullets.” Her bullet came in sideways, tearing through her left arm and destroying the inside of her torso.  She survived a few hours.

They were joined by William Schroeder, another honor student, an Eagle Scout who was at Kent State on an ROTC scholarship. He too was walking to class, 400 feet away, when he was shot in the back. He made it to the hospital before dying on the slab.

They were joined by nine surviors, some shot in limbs, others in the torso, one in the spine – paralyzed forever.

For his part, Nixon said that "bums" were destroying American campuses. Allison's father, while being interviewed on television, said, "My daughter was not a bum."

The turning point in my life can be pinpointed to a specific second. One second out of a thirteen second fusillade when the Ohio National Guard spun in their tracks at the crest of a hill on a lovely, warm May day and, unbelievably, shot at random into a crowd of protesting students. The rifle bullet that entered Jeff's mouth and exited at the base of his skull changed my life as surely as it ended his. 
–  Jeffrey Miller’s mother

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