By Angie Bado, TSB Publisher
Tuesday night was the first time since graduation in May of 2004 that many of the football players, family and friends of those who were killed in McKinney’s quadruple murderon March 12, 2004, were together all at once. Alex and Lynard Barbosa and Colin Bado organized an impromptu gathering at the McKinney North High School parking lot Tuesday night in remembrance of the two football players who were tragically slain.
In the North parking lot, there remains a tribute to Matt Self (#34) and Austin York (#38). Parking spots are still dedicated to their memory, repainted from time to time, so the young men will not be forgotten.
As Alex Barbosa, brother and friend of those who were killed said Tuesday, “Tonight we might want to cry together, but we can laugh together, we can remember Matt, Austin, my brother and my aunt together. They know they are loved.”
It’s been nine years since that horrific evening of March 12, 2004. I think this is at least the fifth time I’ve written about this date, but I’m lucky. Writing this column is a sort of catharsis for me, and, my son is still alive. The sons of three of my friends are not.
Matt Self, Austin York and Mark Barbosa (along with Mark’s aunt, Rosa Barbosa) were killed that fateful night. The four were shot to death in cold blood at a home on Truett Street in the historic district of McKinney. Sadly, Matt and Austin were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Matt, Austin, my son Colin, and the other members of the football team at McKinney North ate pizza together every Wed. night during football season. They worked out together in season, and during the offseason for three years. They watched film together, they went to Hooters for dinner the night before game day together. They laughed together, they had each other’s backs. Despite the difficulties of being the first varsity football team at the then-new high school, they were a team. They started traditions together.
I can only surmise that most, if not all, of the members of that team, to some degree, have struggled with survivor’s guilt.I know that as the mom of the kid who happened to be playing in a varsity soccer game at Wylie while the murders were taking place, I felt a mixture of guilt and relief. It’s taken me all these years to actually admit that. I felt guilty that my son was (and is) still alive. I also felt relief, and a sense enormous gratefulness, that my son was, and is, still living.
Nine years have passed. And like many other days, Tuesday began with an early morning meeting. But while I was getting ready for that meeting, Matt and Austin were on my mind. If they were still alive, they would be 26 and 27 respectively. Each year, on this date, I think of them. I think of their parents who have to go on living without their sons, without knowing what they might have accomplished, without having the opportunity to know their sons as men, as perhaps fathers. I still feel angry and an enormous sense of sadness.
During the Tuesday morning meeting there was discussion about the Christian rock band MercyMe performing at the McKinney Performing Arts Center on March 28. We were reminded that one of the band’s most recognized recordings is “I Can Only Imagine“. Immediately my brain flew to that spring break week in 2004 – the week of funerals – the week when that same song, I Can Only Imagine, was played what seemed like 100 times. For nine years I couldn’t bear to hear that song. When I heard it come on the radio, I would change the station. And now, here it was again, being brought up at a meeting on the very morning of the evening that I would be attending the remembrance gathering for the boys where thoughts of that song would flit through my mind like a bad dream.
When Colin mentioned that he had contacted Alex and Lynard Barbosa about getting the guys together on the 12th, the anniversary of the shootings, I felt that this was evidence that the healing, which has been so long in coming, was beginning. I think it has, in many ways. I also think that we will always be inextricably connected through this tragedy. We will always be “family.” And,I think I can finally listen to “that song” again and remember the joyous times that we all shared together during those years as part of North’s football family.
Tuesday morning I fought back tears, and took it as a sign – a God thing. Yes, Matt and Austin, you are gone from this earthly life, but you are not forgotten. Little things that frequently occur, like hearing “I Can Only Imagine” on the radio, regularly remind us of you.