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In Memoriam

The memory and meaning of Matthew Shepard, 13 years later

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming.

He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face.

Aaron had discovered 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Matthew Shepard

The young college student was viciously attacked and bludgeoned, and then tied to a fence and left to die. Matthew was targeted because he was gay.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that.

Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day.

If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young man, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

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22 more reader comments:

  1. RIP Matthew !!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:01pm
  2. I saw the play about him and cried my eyes out!!! The Laramie Project! Oh, god…
    I’m drunk and baked at the moment and this is a TOTAL BUMMER! :’(
    I miss you, Matthew!!

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:03pm
  3. I still remember exactly what I was doing when the news of his tragedy hit the news. Still saddens me to this day. Had the pleasure of meeting his mother at my school. Amazing woman, and such courage she has. Even though I never met him I will always count Mathew amongst the members of my vast family.

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:09pm
  4. Wow! 13 years…it was such a tragedy. Yet it seems like the world has made very little progress and hasn’t learned from this senseless tragedy.

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:12pm
  5. John Her-something, whoever liked my post named john, your profile pic looks like an eye. #sorrystillbaked

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:13pm
  6. The seeds have been planted, Sarah. The world is changing as we speak, the blossoms will bloom soon! Our beautiful new world will come very soon! Our sacrifices and acts that we make in each state in the united states of America today pages the way to a brighter tomorrow! :D

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:16pm
  7. I wish he were still here…he’s kinda cute to me. I’m bi, btw. >.>

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:20pm
  8. RIP Matthew<3 You're always in our hearts

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:23pm
  9. As a young gay man, Matthew I Appreciate you so much! rest in peace man

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:38pm
  10. 13 years later……….
    Repealing DADT & winning Marriage Equality in NY are our only real victories………. in 13 years!

    While happy for any progress~~ america has a LONG way to go!
    We are STILL 3rd class citizens in our own country!

    Gay teens are no longer waiting for others to kill them, now they are just doing it themselves!

    This we call progress???????????

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 7:41pm
  11. I’ve tried to post my story on sites, it seems its not what they want. For me being a lesbian was only the tool used to punish an LD student for trying to be with the normal classes. I didn’t have the choice to come out, not even to me. I was molested for wanted in equal education. What would have happened to me if I had said “I’m gay” too?

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 8:01pm
  12. man kind still has alot we wont be don tell every one in the word is treeted eqwally and the same as any other person. but that is inpossable cuz sum people are bad and sum people like to be jerks but thats also why we must never give in even if what we are reaching for maybe inpossable we can still bring in alot og good reaching for it

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 8:16pm
  13. My son is crying out where is the gay malcolm x lots follow words of martin luther king but malcolm x said to us not only are we equal as rev king said but we are willing to fight to protect the respect we demand. so where is the gay malcolm x

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 9:22pm
  14. I think it’s time for people to realize that this tragedy that happened 13 years ago is still happening today. The only problem…it was publicized then as a “new” gay hate crime and now it isn’t publicized because it’s “just another” gay hate crime. Matthew was a beautiful young man with so much life but he taught us something: the people in this world will stop at nothing to hurt you for being different. But the big guns of this country have done nothing to stop it. Well it’s time that we step up and tell the big guns that we won’t stand for it. I’m not going to be the next Matthew. My girlfriend, my neighbor, my uncle, my co-worker, my drag-queen bartender friend is not going to be the next Matthew. He suffered on that fence for being what we all are: ourselves….what we were created to be. And I’m not going to let someone with Hate in their heart tell me, with a gun to my head or a knife to my throat that it’s wrong. We need to stand up to every leader of this country and show them that we won’t be bullied anymore. Because if we won’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 10:44pm
  15. I’ve had a few exchanges with Judy Shepard in the last couple of years via emails and through the foundation’s website. What a kind woman she is. Her son would be very proud of her.

    Posted on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 3:43am
  16. Très bouleversant! J’ai beaucoup d’admiration pour ces gens qui malgré d’aussi horribles épreuves,parviennent à fonder ces extraordinaires oeuvres et à s’y investir autant.

    Posted on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 5:41am
  17. I will never forget when Ellen spoke about him and choked on her tears at the devestation. With all the bullying that still goes on and the young suicides, when are parents going to realize that they have to teach their children when they’re young. My efforts to facilitate that are small but I’m hopeful they will impact my own children. There’s a new children’s book series out there about a little girl growing up in the city with two moms. The stories are about her, not her moms, and just how ordinary her life is… just like any other kids. “Anything is possible. Anything can be.” – Shel Silverstein

    Rest in peace Mathew. You will never be forgoteen.

    Posted on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 7:39am
  18. Here’s the website to those books. Every kid should have these.

    Posted on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 7:40am
  19. I cry everytime I hear his story! RIP Matthew! You’re forever in our hearts! <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 8:52am
  20. Social change takes time. Lots of people are impatient. The federal Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act is the greatest monument to him. So while there still may be communities that don’t consider the killing of a LGBT person to be a crime worth punishing, at least the federal government has authority to step in an act.

    Posted on Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 3:29pm

    I can’t seem to post this on your wall, LGBTQ Nation, but i thought that this was something to you’d be interested in.!/petition/enact-and-enforce-legislation-recognize-bullying-punishable-hate-crime/nlklS23v

    could you please post this so that all your members can see it and share it as well?

    Posted on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 1:52am
  22. Oh Matthew …your story still move me to tears :(

    Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 6:42pm