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In Memoriam

The memory and meaning of Matthew Shepard, 14 years later

Saturday, October 6, 2012

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 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Matthew Shepard

The young college student had been 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 – and 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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31 more reader comments:

  1. R.I.P. young man.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:20am
  2. R.I.P. Matthew…you were taken to soon..

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:23am
  3. The victim of an unnecessary hate crime. It’s sad, and sickening.. R.I.P. Matthew.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:26am
  4. <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:27am
  5. God bless him and his family. RIP Matthew. <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:32am
  6. I can’t believe it’s been 14 years. RIP Matthew

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:35am
  7. I also can’t believe its been that long, I was 17 and it changed how I saw my world. RIP Matthew, god bless. It still breaks my heart

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:42am
  8. we are doing little be better as community… you our inspiration Matt ;)

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:45am
  9. This breaks my heart everytime I read it. My wish is that it broke everyones. Rest peacefully Matthew <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:01am
  10. Yes, it broke mine too. It is haunting in a way that I don’t have words for.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:15am
  11. ALWAYS IN YOUR RAINBOW COMMUNITIES HEART—EVERYWHERE.. R.I.P MATTHEW ,,BLESSINGS TO YOUR FAMILY

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:48am
  12. jovito……..

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:49am
  13. We all need to shed a tear over this one. I know it doesnt seem so at times but we do truly have god looking out for us.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:51am
  14. RIP Matthew, I’ll never forget

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:52am
  15. My brother died same year due to cancer..

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 9:28am
  16. Still miss you. You shed a light that things must change in the world. No H8

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 9:41am
  17. ;n(

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 11:40am
  18. His story hit me like a stomach punch.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 11:57am
  19. I wish all teachers, politicians and ministers would see the play about Matthew’s death (“The Laramie Project”). Maybe tnen we would open more eyes and hearts to the difficulty of being gay in this country. And, to how they (our leaders) can help bring about change.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 12:43pm
  20. So sad!

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1:08pm
  21. So sad!

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1:52pm
  22. Did someone put those a-holes in jail?

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 2:51pm
  23. It is distrubing to me that someone dies because they want to be there self. This young man deserved better. R.I.P.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:17pm
  24. There is no excuse for this young man’s death.

    Posted on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 9:05pm
  25. I remember this like it was yesterday. Hate has NO place in America. Yet certain politicians spread this hate. A politicians job is to serve ALL Americans, not just his/her chosen group.

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:08am
  26. R.I.P. to a friend I never met. You are in Gods hands now, and God loves all His children, and He don’t make mistakes.

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:09am
  27. Unfortunately I feel deeply connected with this considering it happened my Senior year of high school, on my birthday – I have always been deeply saddened by this atrocity – my heart still goes out to the family affected by the heinous acts of those ‘boys’ – because they certainly weren’t men.

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 3:19pm
  28. I am so sorry, im 13 and gay

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 3:46pm
  29. Wow, I can’t believe that was 14years ago. It feels so recent.

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 3:56pm
  30. RIP!

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 5:35pm
  31. Spent the anniversary taking high school students to see an excellent production of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” at Napa Valley College. Matthew’s legacy lives on and continues to change lives.

    Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 7:44pm