Ed Murray, News 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma – It was one year ago tonight that a Norman City Council meeting had a tragic impact. Nineteen-year-old Zack Harrington, an openly gay man, listened to a three-hour heated debate about the gay lifestyle. One week later, he committed suicide.
Harrington's father, Van, said last year that it wasn't the meeting alone that drove his son to take his life, but that the toxic meeting on top of years of bullying pushed Zack over the edge.
Norman approved a proclamation that night recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month.
Today Van Harrington is focused on helping others in similar situations.
"Time doesn't heal. Time allows you time to gather your thoughts, seek help, and emotionally to understand what's gone on," Harrington said.
Harrington spoke in a park near his home in Norman. It's a park that his son loved to visit. The white bench there is a remembrance as is the Oklahoma white bud tree planted nearby. Harrington said it's hard to tell if the climate has changed over the last year, but there is more awareness of the issues.
"I'm not out to change anybody's beliefs or opinions, but I do seek to have people think about what they say and how hurtful it might be," he said.
Tom Kovach is a Norman city councilman. He said the city has taken a baby step forward in the last year, but more needs to be done.
"One of the things I've asked the council to do is work on an anti-bullying ordinance. And we're going to be working on that in the next few months," Kovach said.
And in the grief of Zack Harrington's death rose an alliance of mothers with LGBT children, Mothers of Many, MOM.
"I am MOM. And I support you. And whether it's for one of my children or one of your children, whether it's for a child whose parents have turned away because of this issue, we're committed to stand with them," said Cindy Cason, a MOM member.
The group's uniform is a scarf to embrace all.
"It's all about building bridges," said Glenda Peters, a MOM member. "And as soon as one person gets to know my son or Cindy's son or the daughter or child or any, any, any of our Moms, they then begin to realize we have so much more in common than we have in difference."
The MOM's goals are awareness and compassion.
See MOM's editorial in the Norman Transcript, 9/25/11.