For my family and me, March 12, 2004 remains a date that will forever be etched firmly into our minds. Like 9/11, we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the awful, mind-boggling news. That news was that two of my son’s friends and fellow football players from McKinney North High School had been shot. That’s all we knew at first. The grisly details of what happened, including two more victims, would come out gradually over the following days, weeks and years.
It would make such an impact on our city that even now, 10 years later, TownSquareBuzz.com will analyze the lasting effects this senseless night with a seven-part series, Truett Street Tragedy, Then And Now, that begins this week.
But I will never forget it. I lived it. It was a Friday night – the last Friday of spring break week. My son Colin had a soccer game in Wylie. As a senior in high school, I remember that he planned to hang out after the game with his girlfriend at the time. I didn’t expect him to be home until midnight.
I also remember being excited because my daughter Megan was flying home from Portland, Oregon for a visit. I was anxious to see her and had planned all of the fun things we would do during her visit. Those plans turned into attending visitations and funerals.
After traveling to Wylie to watch the soccer game, I eventually headed to bed, but was too keyed up from the excitement of the game and my daughter’s pending arrival to go to sleep.
Strangely, I heard the front door slam early. It must have only been 10 or 10:30. Then I heard Colin and his girlfriend talking near the front door. Their voices escalated and I heard the word “shot.” Then Colin was in the hallway near my bedroom talking to his sister on the phone and, through sobs, the conversation went, “One of my friends has been shot.” I immediately leaped out of bed and went to find out what he was talking about. Colin was confused. He wasn’t certain who had been shot, just that one of the guys on the team had been shot. Adrenaline kicked in and I knew that I had to find out what had happened.
It took about 20 more minutes, and a number of phone calls for us to figure out exactly who had been shot and to discover that there was more than one friend. We learned that two boys who attended MNHS and were prominent members of the football team were victims, along with the brother and aunt of two other MNHS football players.
Austin York (18), Mark Barbosa (25) and Mark’s aunt, Rosa Barbosa (46), had died at the scene. Seventeen year-old Matt Self had been taken via air ambulance to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.
The shock was palpable. What had happened? How could this have happened? I hugged my son and we sobbed, trying to put the pieces together so that somehow this might make sense, or better yet, might not be true. After talking on the phone with one of the football coaches, we realized that the horror was all too true.
At about midnight, our family made the decision to drive to Dallas to the hospital to be with Matt and his family. When we walked into the hall where Matt’s room was located, we were met by 20 or so other football players and their families. Some were simply quietly sitting on the floor, some people were pacing the hallway – all were hoping for news of Matt’s improvement. As I think back to that night, I realize that we were all in shock. We sat there for what seemed like hours, literally shaking – seemingly unable to grasp all that had transpired.
Finally, Matt’s mom, Nancy, told us that we could go in and visit Matt. She told us that his organs would be donated to those who needed them and she wondered out loud if this was the right thing to do. One by one, we stepped into Matt’s hospital room, where the punctuating sound was the hum of the machines that were keeping him alive. We had to say our goodbyes. The thought that went through my head over and over was, “How are you coping with this, Nancy and Keith? How do you survive this?”
That night we all were truly family – not just a football family, but a real family. We worried together about Alex and Lynard Barbosa, who had lost their brother and their aunt, as well as two close friends. We worried about the Wilson family (Austin’s parents) and began planning how to help them, and the Selfs, through the next days and weeks. We cried together and held each other and talked about the boys we knew and loved and how each had touched our lives. Above all, we wondered how this could have happened in McKinney, Texas – a place where I had rarely even locked my front door.
That weekend was a blur. Tears came at the drop of a hat. On Monday, it was back to school. Counselors were readily available on campus to talk with students. Kids broke into tears and held on to each other. Football players gathered in the indoor athletic facility, sitting together in silence – their physical presence a comfort to each other.
At the time, I worked in the McKinney North Athletic Office for then-athletic coordinator and head football coach Shawn Pratt, who is now the Director of Athletics for the school district. I remember taking call after call in my office from members of the community asking what they could do to help. Everyone felt helpless, but hundreds of folks wanted to do something. I walked into Coach Pratt’s office and said, “Let’s start a scholarship fund in Matt and Austin’s name.” Coach Pratt agreed and the money poured in. That fund has grown, and through McKinney Education Foundation, a scholarship is still given each year in Matt Self and Austin York’s name.
Four funerals were attended that week. Four individuals who had loved ones and friends and loved life were laid to rest that week.
It was a week of education of a different kind – the school of hard knocks. All who knew the victims were wounded emotionally. Our innocence was lost. But I know that 10 years later, even with the passing of time and God’s healing hand, the members of that football team and their parents, the coaches and their families and the families of the victims are forever bound together by the tie of that single horrific night. Matt, Austin, Mark and Rosa, you may be gone, but you will forever remain in our hearts.
Angie Bado is founder and publisher of TownsquareBuzz.com
Editor’s Note: TSB’s upcoming series on these murders will begin Thursday. We will look at what happened that awful night and the law enforcement investigation that took years to complete. But more importantly, we will look at the victims, talk to their families, their friends and analyze the incredible impact this senseless tragedy had on our city. We in McKinney lost our innocence that night. We’re forever changed because of it. We hope you’ll join us on this heartbreaking, yet hopefully inspiring journey, Truett St. Tragedy, Then and Now.