One D.C. landmark is not letting the government shutdown ruin what they have planned, so Ford's Theatre is taking its show on the road. That show is about the beating death of a young gay man, and they believe it is a subject so important, it has to be told.
There are thousands of letters. Most say this – “I am sorry.”
“This display is particularly heart-wrenching for me,” said Judy Shepard.
These letters have been in Shepard's basement for nearly 15 years. They came from everywhere.
“All over the world. Addressed to Shepard family in Wyoming and that was it. And they got there,” she said.
That is because the 1998 beating death of Judy’s son, Matthew, stunned the nation and sparked a dialogue.
There is a letter from Bill Clinton. Another from Coretta Scott King.
One stranger wrote:
I keep saying...
That could have been me!
That could have been me!
That was me.
He was me.
He was all of us.
“If I get emotional, people worry about me and don't listen to what I have to say,” said Judy Shepard.
The letters are on display at the Center for Education across from Ford's Theatre in conjunction with a performance of the play called “The Laramie Project.”
“It's real people in real time in Laramie talking about how what happened to Matt affected them, what they thought about it --good and bad,” said Judy. “It will always be the truth. Not dramatized, not open to interpretation, always just what they said.”
Paul Tetreault is the Director of Ford's Theatre and, at first, found the exhibit hard to view.
“I could come down and look at a letter or two and then I had to dismiss myself because I didn't want to break down in front of the staff,” he said.
One of the first things you see when you walk into the exhibit is a photograph of the fence where Matthew died and taken from his perspective that he would have had. It is jarring. It is supposed to be.
“There's not a person who was old enough to know what was going on 1998 with Matthew Shepard that does not walk in this room and immediately know what that photograph is,” said Tetreault.
What happened to Matthew Shepard remains part of the nation’s history.
“I think the impact we have had is we didn't go home,” said Judy Shepard. “We owe it to Matt and his friends to make the world a better place. As long we had a voice, the people were going to listen too. We were going to use that.”
"The Laramie Project" at Ford's Theatre
Performances will be:
Friday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001 (1.5 blocks from Ford's Theatre)
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Free tickets will be distributed on site on a first-come basis. House will open for seating at 7 p.m.
Patrons are invited to visit the Center for Education and Leadership and the "Not Alone: Power of Response" exhibition pre-performance [http://www.fords.org/event/not-alone-power-response].
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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