Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, of 22 Diamond Drive, Plainsview, L.I died at Kent State thirty five years ago May 4, 1970. He was killed by a single bullet to the mouth, a bullet shot from the gun of an Ohio State National Guard soldier. That bullet killed a boy and his hopes, but brought a nation to life, to remember what hope is. Hope must survive rage. I remember now the boy from Diamond Drive.
Just off Manetto Hill Road, Diamond Drive runs right alongside the Northern State Parkway and in sight of the Long Island Expressway. Jeffrey Miller, a graduate of a Plainview high school never came back to his Diamond Drive.
Jeffrey lived down the block from the Schiffmans, around the corner from the Brickmans and the Schettinis. He looked west for his chance to see Manhattan, the place of Long Island dreams, just a road away. When he woke up on the morning of May 4, 1970 at Kent State he could not have known he would end up on a far different road. I remember now the boy who never grows old. I remember now the boy from Diamond Drive
My town had two high schools then, one new, the other not so old, rivals in all things trivial. That day students from both schools counted Jeffrey Miller as their own. Jeffrey Miller belonged to his parents, to these students and their age. He belongs now to the ages. When Jeffrey Miller fell, he stepped up out of time, the time measured by mere clocks. He forever belongs to a different time. And the students who gathered at the high schools on the fields looking west over the Hempstead Plains on May 4, 1970 knew what time that was. It was time to rage, and somehow hang onto hope. They came to remember the boy from Diamond Drive.
My father Charles Mattingly was a member of the school board of Plainview Old Bethpage, Central School District Number 4. Jeffrey Miller’s mom worked for the school district in Plainview, his dad worked on lynotype for the New York Times. The school board met that day to discuss that day’s events and what it might mean.
What mean times those were. Rage on all sides might defeat hope for all. My father came home. He shook his head and said some things could not be done. I remember the way he angled his head. He just looked away, his hands on the kitchen counter, the veins rising on the back of his hands, his fingers resting on the kitchen counter like a piano he couldn’t play. He said it again. Some things could not be done. Neither my father nor his thirteen year old son could believe what had been done, me more loudly than him, until his gaze told me silently, but loudly to shut up. I remember now that loud silence, how it fell between me and my father. I remember now the boy who would never grow to be a man. I remember that boy from Diamond Drive.
Candles were lit that night with the hope small candles have. Hope is a flicker in a candle, an ever wavering flame in the heart. The next day many high school students walked out. My father raged. He believed in education and its importance. He was of an age where routine was a way through tragedy. To break routine, to stop education would be to let tragedy seep in and in a small way win. In education was hope. The students would need the teachers, he said. They would need their teachers that day more than ever. My father would not believe the students would leave class. My father could not believe some students would show up only to leave. Those students left in order to remember. Together, yet each in their own way, these students would not forget what rages in the heart and might kill hope, the strength of those still young. The students would remember the boy from Diamond Drive.
All these years later I remember now the boy from Diamond Drive, Jeffery Miller who grew up along the Northern State Parkway, in sight of the LIE overpass over Manetto Hill Road. Jeffery Miller would have taken Manetto Hill Road to get to his high school, a high school in a town where students graduate with hopes. I see hope now on Manetto Hill as I remember the boy from Diamond Drive
My old high school rests now on Manetto Hill, on a rise above the Hempstead Plains. On a clear day you can see the Manhattan skyline distant, a place for Jeffery Miller a far road, a far hope away, now and always. I can never forget the boy never to be a man from Diamond Drive.