Stuart McNair

When National Guardsmen killed Kent State students, Nick Saban was there

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was classmate with one of Kent State shooting victims

On May 4, 1970, during the darkest days of the Vietnam war, Kent State students were among those across the nation protesting the United States being involved in what was viewed as a futile war taking the lives of many Americans. At the time, Alabama Coach Nick Saban was a student-athlete at Kent State.

That day, National Guard members were involved in a non-violent protest on the campus at Kent State. Unexpectedly, the Guardsmen began firing and four Kent State students were killed.

On Monday, with Alabama hosting Saban’s alma mater this Saturday, the coach was asked about the incident from his student days.

Saban said, "I think certainly to that point in my life it was one of the most traumatic experiences that I'd ever had to deal with. To have students on your campus shot, killed --and actually I didn't see it happen, but saw the aftermath, right after it happened.

“It's made me have a lot of appreciation for a lot of things; actually made me appreciate the fact that law and order is very important but it also made me appreciate the fact that what those students were trying to express in terms of the Vietnam war and the demonstration they were having and the confrontation that occurred was unnecessary.

“There's a film out of it actually happening. I don't know if you've ever had the opportunity to watch it, but they've already tear gassed the crowd, there's martial law so you couldn't have the meeting on Monday at noon, but they had the meeting anyway. It was kind of over and the National Guard was kind of marching up the hill when all of a sudden they wheeled around and fired into the crowd.

“Nobody could ever figure out quite how that happened. It seemed pretty unnecessary.

“But I had class with one of the students that was killed, Allison Krause. I didn't know her that well, but it was a pretty chilling experience.

“It's something that makes you view things a little bit differently and certainly have a much better appreciation of not taking for granted life itself. And it probably had more to do to stop the war in Vietnam than anything that happened, unfortunately for the students."

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