This article in the Washington Post tells the story of the girl in the Kent State photo from May 4, 1970. She was 14! Her name is Mary Ann Vecchio.
I was at NYU that day, protesting the ongoing war in Viet Nam, when we heard about the National Guard killing students at Kent State. We were all appalled. A few days later that photo appeared. Most of us assumed that the girl was a Kent State student. She wasn’t, she was a 14 year old runaway from Florida. This WAPO article was the first time I’d every heard that.
She was deeply affected by what happened that day, and by the photo becoming so famous. Read her story.
That photo, of her kneeling over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller, is one of the most important images of the 20th century. Taken by student photographer John Filo, it captures Mary Ann’s raw grief and disbelief at the realization that the nation’s soldiers had just fired at its own children. The Kent State Pietà, as it’s sometimes called, is one of those rare photos that fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves and the world around us.
These images shocked our collective conscience — and insisted that we look. But eventually we look away, unaware, or perhaps unwilling, to think about the suffering that went on long after the shutter has snapped — or of the cost to the human beings trapped inside those photos. “That picture hijacked my life,” says Mary Ann, now 65. “And 50 years later, I still haven’t really moved on.”
The story was written by Patricia McCormick.
Update: On a personal note, many people might not remember but after the shootings at Kent State, many of the country’s colleges were on strike for the rest of the spring semester. NYU never had classes again that spring, and that was true for many other schools. To this day I have some incompletes on my permanent record.