'Dear Matt': Reflections on the death of Matthew Shepard

Originally Published: October 16, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 20, 2007
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Dear Readers,

Matthew Shepard was the 5'2" openly gay twenty-one-year-old University of Wyoming student who was kidnapped, beaten, and left tied to a fence in near-freezing temperatures for eighteen hours on October 7th, 1998 and later died as a result of his injuries. At Columbia University, hundreds of students and staff expressed their feelings about Matthew's life and death by writing on a giant sheet that was displayed on campus, and then sent to Matthew's family, friends, and University of Wyoming colleagues. These messages are being shared here as education, with the hope that they can play a part in reducing the ignorance, bias, anger, and/or whatever else that contributed to Matthew's violent end.

"Matt,
Thank you for being honest. No one should live in fear."

"May we learn, may we heal."

"Dear Matthew,
I didn't know you, but yet I understand how you must have felt when two humans forgot to realize that you were one too; yet I know that who you were will transcend even death."

"Matt,
I've decided to come out today. Fifty years of hiding is enough. Even, if a fence awaits me."

"Gone at 21
A man my age is very young.
So I'm told.
Why do I
feel so old?
- Rest in peace"

"It's hard to believe that something like this still happens in our society. You will serve as an example through the actions of those who condemn your treatment. May you find happiness and peace as we fight to learn from your tragedy."

"Dear Matthew,
I'm so in shock that anyone could do something so atrocious to another human. I don't even know what to say. My saying that I'm sorry can't bring you back. My best friend is gay and I just don't understand how people can be so cruel or heartless or closed-minded. I'm sorry for them."

"Matthew,
God loves you and so shall I."

"Matthew,
Things will change when enough people take action."

"Matthew,
We hope you can find peace. You taught us a lot about ourselves, and the true meaning of acceptance, and that this world is a cruel place sometimes. We'll try to work on it for you."

"Isn't it time we realize that love is just love? We must embrace love in all its forms, and render hate unacceptable. Peace be with you..."

"Matt,
It could have happened to me.
Rest in peace."

Alice