Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wyoming 10 Years Later: Not Much Has Changed

Actually, what has changed as we near the ten year anniversary of Mathew Shepard's death on Oct 10 is not encouraging: The site where Shepard was left to die after being beaten senselessly by two men is now very hard to find, as the fence is gone and the place smoothed over. There is no monument in town to Shepard, the mayor wasn't even going to commemorate the death, and townspeople now don't even speak much about it as an antigay hate crime but rather as a "robbery" gone wrong:

“A lot of people in the community went through a sense of grief, in a very poignant, heartfelt, painful way, and I think eventually the pain became so great that they don’t want to think about it or hear about it,” Rebecca Hilliker, a professor of theater at the University of Wyoming here...

...Laramie has changed in some ways. The city council passed a bias crimes ordinance that tracks such crimes, though it does not include penalties for them. There is an AIDS Walk now...

...And yet, to the bewilderment of some people here, there is no memorial to Mr. Shepard in Laramie. The log fence has been torn down where he lay dying for 18 hours on Oct. 7, 1998. There is no marker. Wild grass blows in the wind.

The Fireside bar — where Mr. Shepard was lured away by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who are serving life terms for murder — is also gone, sold and renamed years ago. Without the Fireside, there is no longer a bar in town where gays, jocks, foreign students and cowboys mix together.