Live free from hate
Lessons from the lives of Logan and Matthew Shepard
By Brooke Eades – Kelly Kall Staff Writer
Kelly Walsh High School
“Hate has no place in this world.”
As graduation approaches and seniors go off to conquer the world while their fellow classmates move up the high school ladder, those seven words are ones to be kept in mind. No matter where life leads or what path is taken it is important to remember that everyone deserves respect. This year is the tenth anniversary of the loss of Matthew Shepard and the brutal hate crime that took place within our state that led to his death. His brother Logan Shepard’s words above are just some advice he gives to the students at Kelly Walsh and around the country.
Matthew Shepard was, as his brother described him, a “one of a kind individual” who had the gift of being able to strike up a conversation with anyone he met. He attended the University of Wyoming with an emphasis on political affairs and was a shinning student and a kind person to his fellow piers. Tragically, on October 12, 1998 Matthew passed away after being beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming for simply being gay.
The brutal hate crime was committed by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney when they encountered Matthew in Laramie’s Fireside Bar and offered him a ride. Once in the car Matthew was severely beaten by a pistol and driven outside of town where he was tied to a fence post, severely tortured, and left to die. He was discovered the next morning by a bicyclist who at first glance thought that Matthew was a scarecrow. Matthew was taken to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado where he remained in a coma with injuries too severe to operate. He passed away with his family at his bedside five days after the attack.
Matthew’s story spread across the nation and the world like wildfire and the awareness towards hate crimes took center stage. Logan Shepard was only a senior in High School when his brother passed away. A time when students are looking forward to graduation, prom and the typical high school events. Logan’s senior year was sadly far from typical as he faced obstacles that are hard for any person to even imagine.
“One day I was an everyday student and the next day we were on the news and the covers of magazines. I had always pictured my senior year to be one of the best years of my life, then it all came crashing down around my head and I lost one of my best friends and biggest supporters,” Logan Shepard said. In a time when pain was unavoidable Logan stayed strong for his family and all those around him. “It was difficult to go back to school, but I did and I had to grow up faster in a year than I had ever imagined possible. I had to become an adult, I had to be strong for my family, I had to be able to stand up to those people who would come up and say awful things about my brother and my family.”
There is no excuse for what happened to Matthew and for what his family was put through. Hate can create devastation and as high schoolers go off to face the world, we are the only ones who can stop it. The realities of our words and our actions can be far spread and bigger then anyone realizes. Showing respect towards others regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender or personality is essential. You don’t have to agree with them but you owe them the courtesy to be their own individual and live their life in peace the way that they choose to live it.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation was put in place by Matthew’s mother Judy and has become a huge success throughout the country. They have created nation-wide attention to hate crimes and gathered support to stop them from happening. The foundation also introduced the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act that is still waiting to be passed.
Logan Shepard had an immense amount of advice for Kelly Walsh students. “The world is a much bigger and more diverse place than small town Wyoming. Life is going to change dramatically and the best advice I can give you is, treat people with respect. Treat people how you would like to be treated. I know kids are tired of hearing it, but I was in school too and the lesson is; High School and Junior High do not last forever, and who you are now, will change once you enter into the real world. Enter the world with an open mind. Learn about new cultures and religions, learn about the LBGT (Lesbian Bi-Sexual Gay Transgender) community, you may be surprised by what you learn and even more surprised to find out that we all have common interests and form great friendships. We are all people, just trying to live our lives and trying to find our own love and happiness. Under no circumstance should anyone have to live in fear.”
Keep Logan Shepard’s words in mind as each and every one of you go on with your lives. Always remember to consider before you speak, respect those whom are different and before you choose to hate- think of Matthew.