The blast threw me out of bed. I scrambled into the dark hallway and ran into others; we all thought that a bomb had been detonated in the basement of our building. We ran apartment-to-apartment making certain everyone was awake and okay. Then we helped the grad students get their notes, manuscript drafts, computer data cards, etc. out of their apartments in into cars for safe keeping.
We heard the approaching sirens of emergency vehicles, and were astonished when they went past rather than stopping. It slowly dawned that the explosion hadn't been in our building, but was somewhere on campus.
More and more emergency vehicles raced past. They were heading in the direction of the (old) University Hospital. A neighbor said "My God, did a boiler at the hospital explode?" We got dressed and ran toward the hospital, partly from curiosity, and partly to offer help evacuating patients from the hospital.
The street was filled with glass three blocks away. We got to Sterling Hall, which was across a narrow street from the hospital, and saw that it's front had been blown off. One side of the hospital had been severely damaged; its windows were gone. Nearby buildings were heavily damaged and buildings several blocks away lost their windows. There was a crater where the explosion had occurred.
My roommate asked a fireman "What happened?" He answered "It was a bomb." That answer was shocking. How could it have been a bomb? You mean someone did this on purpose? How can that be? the peace movement isn't about bombs, it's about peace?!
A cordon was set up and we were pushed back. Standing near a fire truck so I could hear its radio I heard a fireman report finding one body in Sterling Hall. Stunned, I stood for a few more minutes than walked back to my apartment.
Two days later I cut my shoulder length hair and notified my landlord that I wouldn't remain as a tenant for the fall term.
I was done with UW and Madison, except for completing my studies. I rented and apartment west of Middleton and commuted, spending as little time on campus as possible. I didn't attend my graduation.
The anti-war movement was a sham; a cover for violent anarchists. It wasn't actually anti-war; it was mostly anti-draft, and nothing more. It was over-indulged white males who didn't want to be conscripted. It would never have happened if there hadn't been a draft.
I don't have a romantic version of the late 60s in my head. I lived through it, it was horrible. Sure, the music was good, the weed was abundant, "liberated" coeds eschewed underwear, and contraceptive sex had no risk. It was still an awful time.
Karleton Armstrong was lucky. He should still be rotting in prison.
August 24, 2010
Michael Haz writes about the bombing that took place here in Madison 40 years ago today: