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Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2008

Ten years ago today, the world had never heard of Matthew Shepard. That’s because up until ten years ago today, he was just another 21-year-old gay college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Well, not just another college student. He showed great promise. He had attended two years of high school at the American School in Switzerland during the time his family moved temporarily to Saudi Arabia. He had a particular talent for learning languages and he had a special love for community theater. In college, he was active in the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Association, and he was chosen as a student representative to the Wyoming Environmental Council. Friends described him as easy, outgoing, and approachable, with a special gift of relating to almost everyone.

And yet, he really was just another college kid. His mother, Judy Shepard, says he was “just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough.”

But ten years ago today proved to be Matthew’s last full day as an ordinary college student.

Ten years ago today was a Tuesday, right in the middle of midterms at UW. Matthew had a French exam to study for, but he decided to wind up early that evening and go over to an LGBTA meeting. The main item on the agenda for the meeting was to put the final touches on plans for Gay Awareness Week, which was to be held on campus beginning on Sunday.

After the meeting ended, Matthew went back home. But then he decided to go out again to the Fireside Lounge. There, he met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who posed as visiting students from California.

Sometime after midnight, in the very early morning hours of ten years ago tomorrow, Matthew decided to take McKinney and Henderson up on an offer for a ride home.

And sometime after that, Matthew Shepard was no longer just an ordinary college student.

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History : Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard



October 6th, 2008 | LINK

“But ten years ago today proved to be Matthew’s last full day as an ordinary college student.”

That sentence hit me like a punch in the stomach.

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