Emerald Ridge Remembers Matthew Shepard
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October 12th, 2016 marks the 18th anniversary of the death of a young gay man in Laramie, Wyoming.
Matthew Shepard was born in 1976 and passed away in 1998, six days after he was brutally beaten, left to die, and tied to a fence on the outskirts of town. After 18 hours, a passerby thought Shepard was a gruesome Halloween decoration until he decided to get a closer look at his body before calling 911 upon the realization that he was in fact a person, and something terrible had taken place the night before.
Shepard’s death wracked the country in protests against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and etc. community, which received much backlash and many programs supporting LGBT+ community were founded. Pride parades were celebrated as enthusiastically as ever while candlelit memorials were held across the states in memory of Shepard and many others lost to hate crimes.
Matthew Shepard was the victim of one of the most brutal hate crimes in history, and though his passing was tragic, his memory is as strong as ever.
The Emerald Ridge Drama Department put on a production of The Laramie Project last November, a play written about how the town of Laramie recovered from the aftermath of his death.
“We did The Laramie Project to start the important conversation about acceptance of people who are still marginalized and targeted,” said drama teacher Chris Tavern.
Today, the drama department celebrates what Matthew Shepard stands for by their Laramie Project shirts from the show as well as yellow bands tied on their arms as a way to show their appreciation and keep the memory of Shepard alive.
Senior Eric Baril was part of the production last year and still stresses the importance of never forgetting what came out of the tragedy of Shepard’s passing. The conversation of equality is still very important today, and while laws have since passed in protection of people who fell victim to ignorance.
“This discussion of equality is still relevant now, it hasn’t been solved, and it’s something we can work to improve,” said Baril.
While the drama department supports the memory of Shepard, there are many ways others can support the cause and keep the conversation of equality going. The Trevor Project is an organization that supports suicide prevention in LGBT youth, and was founded the same year Shepard passed. The Trevor Project has many programs and ways to spread awareness in addition to accepting donations at TheTrevorProject.com.
The Laramie Project has left a lasting impression on Emerald Ridge, and the conversation about equality is not stopping anytime soon.
“You can’t do something like the Laramie Project and never talk about it again,” said junior Kaitlyn Trussel. “We’re remembering Matthew Shepard today.”