The Laramie Project

Topics: Matthew Shepard, Laramie, Wyoming, Fred Phelps Pages: 4 (1747 words) Published: December 6, 2006

A montage of images - the prairie, cattle ranches, fast-food restaurants, a cement factory, car dealers, the University of Wyoming - reveals the town of Laramie, Wyoming, pop. 26,687. As the town's police sergeant says, "It's a good place to live. Good people - lots of space. We're one of the largest states in the country, and the least populated." Laramie residents take pride in being part of the "gem city of the plains," and appear to believe in the motto "Live and Let Live." What happens to a town like Laramie when something unexpected, unconscionable and unforgivable rips it apart? What happens to its people when they are thrust into the unrelenting glare of a national media spotlight? And what happens to a community when trust among its own people has been shattered? For a group of young actors and writers from a New York City theater company, these are the questions that have led them to this unassuming town, where they seek out Laramie residents - shopkeepers, teachers, students, bartenders, social workers - whose lives were forever changed on October 6, 1998. That was the night when a gay college student named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied up and left for dead on a fence off a rural road... and when Laramie, Wyoming became the Hate Crime Capital of America. Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard was in a local Laramie Wyoming bar, the Fireside Lounge. While at the bar, 21-year-old Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. According to McKinney, Shepard asked them for a ride home. Subsequently, Shepard was robbed, severely beaten, punched and hit with the butt of a gun, tied to a fence and left to die. Shepard was discovered by a bicyclist 18 hours later, still alive but unconscious. Shepard suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There...
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