Chair of Communications Studies Greg Payne is featured in a Washington Post Magazine article that looks back at the Kent State University tragedies, and the iconic girl in the Kent State photo, 51 years after they took place in May of 1970.
Mary Ann Vecchio, the teenager in the photograph that shows her kneeling over the body of student Jeffrey Miller, had her life change forever after that day. She says she felt the same shock as she watched the video of George Floyd on the ground in Minneapolis in spring 2020, and thought, “Why is no one helping him? Doesn’t anyone see what’s going on?”
Vecchio was harassed for years after the photo was shared with the world, as she was seen as a symbol of anti-Vietnam war sentiment. The photographer, John Filo, who never met Vecchio, felt badly for decades for the trauma that followed her.
Payne, who wrote Mayday, Kent State, held a tribute event in 1995 commemorating the killings by police on the Kent State and Jackson State campuses for its 25th anniversary. He invited both Filo and Vecchio, and they met.
An excerpt from the article:
John says he “dreaded ever meeting Mary Ann,” but he accepted Payne’s invitation to the retrospective, unsure, until the last minute, if he would go through with it. When Payne brought the two of them together for a private meeting before the opening ceremony, no one knew what to expect. “John looked so scared,” Payne says. But Mary Ann surprised everyone. “I saw the anguish in his eyes,” she says of John, “and, you know, I felt sorry for him.” She smiled, took his hand and hugged him. They both cried.
Both Vecchio and Filo have since returned to campus to speak to students. Payne is still in touch with Vecchio, and says her “incredibly strong spirit” is the reason for her perseverance.
She also still has that unaffected purity. That’s what you saw in the photo on May 4th. And that’s still who she is.