I was scared, of course. We all were. Just a few days before, four kids had been shot dead and nine wounded by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State in Ohio, and nothing seemed safe anymore. Our nation and our family dinner tables were in complete chaos.

May 4th, 1970. Photo courtesy of Kent State

May 4th, 1970. Photo courtesy of Kent State

I had just turned fifteen and probably wasn’t in much danger of being shot on the steps of Kensington Junior High School, but my pulse was pounding and I felt sick as our group moved down the yellow-tiled hall. We were mostly the “good kids,” certainly not the type to walk out in the middle of a school day without permission.

But those pictures from Kent State haunted us — they looked like our older brothers and sisters. I remember wanting desperately to show solidarity with my big brother who was at college in Texas. I knew he was marching.

The Kent State students shot on May 4th had been protesting Nixon’s announcement that he was expanding the Vietnam war by sending troops into Cambodia. It was now May 6th, and we were joining thousands of college students boycotting classes in a nationwide strike to protest Kent State and the Cambodian invasion. More than 500 campuses had been shut down, including the entire university system of California.

Confronting Authority

It was lunchtime when about a dozen of us ninth graders moved uncertainly towards the big man in the black suit whose outstretched arms blocked the front doors. He looked like a buzzard with his sharp nose and cold eyes and long arms. We had not anticipated the principal’s presence when we planned our walkout.

One brave girl spoke up. “We’re leaving, Mr. Gaub. Please let us pass.”

Mr. Gaub cleared his throat but did not lower his arms.

“It is my duty to tell you that if you walk out this door, you will have an unexcused absence. This will go on your permanent record and could affect your grades.”

We stood just a few feet from him and he looked each of us in the eyes. “I know who you are; I know your names,” he said. He cleared his throat again. “And I’m proud of you.” He dropped his arms and we marched past him into the sunlight.

We milled around in the parking lot for a while chanting “Out Now” and feeling very grown up. Then we walked up to the 7-11 store for cherry cokes and red licorice. After all, we were just kids.

A "good kid" finding her voice

A “good kid” finding her voice

In memory of Stanley Eugene Gaub, February 8, 1925 – January 6, 2009. Thank you and rest in peace.

mr gaub

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