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“The Good Old Days”???

(Thank you for promoting this story- Charlie’s death literally changed my LIFE. I never knew him, yet I owe him a “thank you” for opening my eyes.)

I just read this comment via “Bangor Daily News” and am apoplectic:

On 1/17/09 at 07:58 AM, JoyJessun wrote:

why not just bend the two “Bills” over and give them a shot at each other! haha

does anyone else find it insane that it is even a question if two gays should be allowed to marry? There was a time, in the good old days when they’d just be tossed off a bridge!

 The person “tossed off a bridge” that JoyJessun is referring to was Charlie Howard.

Charles O. Howard (January 31, 1961 – July 7, 1984) was an American hate-crime victim in Bangor, Maine in 1984.

As Howard and a male companion, Roy Ogden, were walking down the street, three teen-aged men, Shawn Mabry, Daniel Ness, and Jim Baines, aged 15-17, harassed Howard for being gay. The youths chased the pair, yelling homophobic epithets, until they caught Howard and threw him over the State Street Bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream, despite his pleas that he could not swim. He drowned, but his friend escaped and pulled a fire alarm. Charlie Howard’s body was found by rescue workers several hours later.

This event galvanized the Bangor community in ways similar to the killing of Matthew Shepard, although the case never attained the same level of national notoriety. Baines later spoke to various groups in Maine about his involvement in the case and the damage that intolerance can do to people and their community. His story, Penitence: A True Story by Edward Armstrong, was published, although Baines received no royalties from the book.

The Bangor City Council and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have been working on a monument to be installed along the Kenduskeag Stream honoring the memory of Charlie Howard as the victim of a hate crime.

On November 14, 2007, the Bangor City Council approved the monument, and the Charles O. Howard Memorial Foundation is raising money to install the monument.

On July 7, 2004, a twentieth anniversary walk was held in memory of Howard. The Maine Speakout Project maintains the Charlie Howard Memorial Library in Portland, Maine. The library is open to the public.

This incident inspired a similar scene in the beginning of Stephen King’s novel It, where three homophobic teenagers throw an openly gay man, Adrian Mellon, over a bridge and into the Kenduskeag, there to be set upon and murdered by the monster Pennywise.

Mark Doty wrote a poem about the tragedy called Charlie Howard’s Descent.

The murder is also the inspiration for a novel by Bette Greene titled The Drowning of Stephan Jones.

Back in 1984, there were no blogs for discussion of the crimes and travesties that occur daily like we do now. The local media coverage was limitted to the Bangor Daily and the 3 TV channels’ evening news coverage. Discussions occured via gossip in homes, at the country store where one got the morning paper and coffee.

One of the lingering memories I have of those days is a sick “joke” passed among my father’s friends- that gays arm-in-arm or holding hands were walking around downtown Bangor, wearing life jackets.

Apparently these memories are not mine alone.

I realize that alot of work needs to be done to create true equality and fairness in Maine, let alone the rest of the nation. But right now I am sick, knowing that someone has taken a bit of humor out of a tragic and criminal act and let it fester in their craniums for 25 years.

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