Nothing More Than Nothing: The Weight of a Snowflake

SnowDecember 14, 2022 will mark the 43rd anniversary of the day my father fell victim to a terrorist attack while working in Istanbul, Turkey as a civilian contractor with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). After a long career in the Air Force that saw him rise to a high rank through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, it took the heartless act of terrorists to rob him of his life and the ability to grow old in the eyes of his family. An expert in intercontinental warfare, he was in Turkey engaged with the removal of nuclear ordnance – as dictated by the agreement ending the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although I can never get through the anniversary of that day without remembering his death, which I have always referred to as the darkest day in my life, I do not write this just to commemorate my father- for there are literally hundreds of Americans that have died overseas, fallen victims to terrorism while defending their country. One list chronicling the attacks up through 1997 is available through the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Should you be interested in reading the circumstances of dad’s death, hit the link and scroll down to the date December 14, 1979 and you will find a brief synopsis, which is listed along with other tragic attacks that have taken place down through the years. You can also find reference to my father’s assassination on the Global Terrorism Database, which has recorded over 200,000 worldwide acts of transnational violence. For each affected family, the death of their loved ones has been equally tragic to the acts of 911, I can personally assure you – because I felt the anguish and grief with my mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins exactly 43 years ago.

Lt. Colonel James B. Clark at the rank of captain

Photo Circa 1953

In the wake of 911, Congress at one time agreed to call for a national monument to the fallen victims of terrorism, as you can ascertain through some readily available documents at the Library of Congress. However, the committee dedicated to constructing this noble commemoration, which would duly honor my father’s memory along with the other hundreds of victims that have died, seems to have fumbled the ball, for nothing has happened – at least to my investigation, and the office of Congresswoman Kay Granger in Ft. Worth, Texas has confirmed this oversight. The resolution has died in the Senate.  For those of you who read this, you could do my father and the other victims of terrorism an honor by signing the petition found at Tell the government you would like to honor Lt. Colonel James B. Clark and the hundreds of others that have died as victims to terrorism, at home and abroad. If you truly appreciate being an American, I fail to see how you can refuse to do so. If you aren’t a U. S. citizen, then sign it as a testimony of your dedication to world peace.

As for now, stay warm and happy in heaven, Dad. I know you are there with the Great One, because they say martyrs go straight to paradise.  I am an old man now, but I still remember and love you as I did forty-three years ago. The time is coming soon when we will be able to sit down once again and enjoy a father and son conversation. I just hope this country will one day admit that it loves you too. I send to you, and anyone that happens to read this, the wisdom of the Coalmouse and the Dove:

Bird In Snow

Photo credit: Shannonsong / / CC BY-NC

The Weight of a Snowflake

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coalmouse asked a wild dove as they sat on the branch of a tree.

 “Nothing more than nothing,” the dove answered.

 “In that case I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coalmouse said. “I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow. Not heavily, not in a raging blizzard. No, just like in a dream, without any violence at all. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,471,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch–nothing more than nothing — as you say — the branch broke off.”

 Having said that, the coalmouse flew away.

 The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace, thought about the story for a while. Finally, she said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

Are you one of those snowflakes, those voices? If not, I must ask you why?

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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Inquire, Learn, and Reflect: The May 4 Memorial of Kent State University

ProtestorsIn the spring of 1970, the United States was a country sharply divided over the ongoing Vietnam War – and the friction many times showed up dramatically on college campuses in the form of protests. In the majority of cases, the dispersal of college protestors occurred with numerous arrests and minimal harm – but on May 4, 1970 one such event erupted into perhaps the most tragic event of the era. The unpopularity of the war had grown to an even more agitated pitch when on April 30 President Richard Nixon announced the Cambodian Campaign, a military invasion of neighboring Cambodia for the purpose of routing the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (also known as the Viet Cong or “Charlie”), which were using the area as a staging ground for attacks on US troops in Vietnam. One reaction to the announcement came in the form of nationwide student strikes that occurred on both the high school and college level, building in intensity over the weekend of May 1st to 3rd. Such was the case at Kent State University in Ohio, where the mayor requested help from the National Guard to quell the unrest. On Monday, May 4, 1970, around 1000 students of that school converged on the University Commons to protest both the presence of the troops at their school and the recent “escalation” of the war.


A Display Remembers the Events of May 4, 1970
Photo credit: PapaDunes / / CC BY-NC-ND

In response to the raucous gathering of protestors, national guardsmen began to lob canisters of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd – and faltering in that effort the troops at first appeared to be retreating. However, quite suddenly they wheeled, knelt and unleashed a volley of 67 rounds that killed four students and permanently paralyzed another. In response to the tragedy, high school and college strikes escalated, involving approximately 4 million students who were further motivated by the lyrics of a hit song released by the group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – entitled Ohio. Controversy continues to this day concerning the motivation of Companies A and C, 1/145th Infantry and Troop G of the 2/107th Armored Cavalry, Ohio National Guard (ARNG) for unleashing such a deadly volley of bullets, when most critics agree there was no ominous threat to their lives. Did the troops act on their own, or were there specific commander’s orders given to fire on the students? A civil suit filed on the behalf of the mother of Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed that day, led to a federal trial (1979) that eventually exonerated Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes, Kent State University President Robert I. White, and 27 National Guardsmen. When the judgment was later reversed through the process of appeal, the plaintiffs accepted $675,000 in damages. In response to another separate indictment (1974) by the federal government, eight of the guardsmen were eventually declared innocent of depriving the students of their constitutional rights.

The accused guardsmen testified that they fired on the students in self-defense, even mentioning that they heard gunfire that made them fear for their lives. However, recent research revealed in 2010 seems to contradict that claim, providing interesting audio evidence that the troops actually fired in response to an order given by the commanding officers. The same audio recording has revealed that a firearm, possibly a handgun, may have been discharged at a very crucial point prior to when the guardsmen opened fire. At the time of the shootings, the FBI examined the same recording, but came to no conclusion that a firearm had discharged or that the guardsmen had receive orders to fire at the protestors.  At the very most, the Scranton Commission organized to examine college unrest concluded that the “indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” Despite the new evidence, it is very unlikely that the federal government will reopen the investigation, because a “double jeopardy” clause in the Constitution prohibits government authorities from re-trying the surviving soldiers involved in the tragedy.

Often referred to as the “Kent State Massacre,” the 40-plus years since the event have made Kent State University very unique when it comes to memorializing non-violence. Originally in 1971, the school chose to establish a “living memorial” through a Center for Peaceful Change, which was later renamed as the Center for Applied Conflict Management – with an undergraduate program in peace and conflict studies (sponsored by the center) that was established in 1973. Although a sculpture entitled the “Kent Four” was erected near the School of Art, the college seemed reticent at first to erect a permanent memorial – but a formal recommendation finally came in 1984. Designed by Chicago architect Bruno Ast, the May 4 Site and Memorial received its official dedication on the 20th anniversary of the shootings – amongst some controversy. The memorial is essentially a plaza that rests on a 2.5 acre piece of land adjacent to the locality of the famous tragedy, including four black granite disks that lead directly north to four free-standing pylons situated in a wooded area. Near the sidewalk, a plaque bears the name of the four students who died, as well as the nine others that were wounded. Before any visitor can step on to the plaza, they are greeted with a quote engraved in the stone floor – “Inquire, Learn, Reflect.” The memorial is surrounded by 58,175 daffodil bulbs that represent the lives that were lost in the Vietnam War, and recently a May 4 Visitor’s Center (see video above) received its official dedication on the anniversary of the shootings.


“Inquire, Learn, Reflect” – Click for Larger Photo
Photo credit: jleberle / / CC BY-NC-SA

If monuments dedicated to non-violence are intended to be cathartic in nature, there is no better example than the May 4 Memorial at Kent State University. The very history of the memorial, which includes the recent addition of a visitor’s center, is very heavily steeped in the human need for healing and consolation. Whatever your opinion is on the Vietnam War Era, the monument speaks to the heart of matters – including the heavy loss of life that took place on the battlefield. Memorials are more than just inanimate objects occupying time and space without a purpose, since they speak profoundly in a universal language that needs no words. Peace symbols in particular speak outwardly to humanity concerning the inward need within all of us for tranquility. A monument to those that have passed away as victims of terrorism – whether they have died at home or abroad – would speak to this need in a very special way. Such a marker goes beyond simple recognition of those that have died, announcing the universal need for amity amongst the human race. Please join us in our efforts to promote such a statement on peace by clicking the link below and signing the petition to which this website is committed.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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