The disturbing national trend of gay teenagers killing themselves continues with the death of an Oklahoma teen who took his life a week after attending a town meeting where residents spewed hatred towards gays.
On September 28, 19-year-old Zach Harrington attended a City Council hearing to get local input into whether October should be named "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month" in the city of Norman.
Harrington sat for three hours as people slammed the gay lifestyle. There were supporters as well, however, and the council passed the resolution 7-1.
Zach killed himself one week after the hearing. His father blames the meeting's venomous atmosphere for his son's suicide.
"I don't think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community," Van Harrington said. "For somebody like Zach, it (the meeting) was probably very hard to sit through."
The father thinks Zach heard the harsh reality of what his gay lifestyle would be, and he just couldn't take it.
Zach had been struggling with being accepted for years. He had trouble in high school. And school officials were apparently no help. Van Harrington said Zach was asked to leave school and earn his diploma in another program.
"He feared for his safety on many occasions at (school), and other people like him," he said. "Even though he was 6-4, he was passive and I'm sure being gay in that environment didn't help."
Zach's sister said she hopes this tragedy will make people think before opening their mouths.
"When we talk about our feelings in a hypothetical way and we send our toxic thoughts out in a public setting that way, they will affect people in a negative way," Nikki Harrington said. "People need to think about the things they are saying and ask themselves, 'Is this right?'"