On the night of October 6th, 1998, Matt Shepard, a twenty-oneyear-old gay University of Wyoming student, stopped in at the Fireside Bar in downtown Laramie for a drink. A day later, in the early evening of Wednesday, October 7th, a mountain biker found Matt lashed to a fence on the outskirts of town, beaten, pistol-whipped, unconscious, and barely breathing. Matt never regained consciousness, and he died five days later, in the early hours of Monday, October 12th. His killers—Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, Laramie men in their early twenties like Matt—were already in custody.
These meager facts are one way to tell the story of those few days. But other stories began to take shape during that cruel stretch, as Matt lay in a Colorado hospital, his doctors struggling to save him, his parents traveling to be at his side. Even before