Fish or pizza? A seemingly simple decision, but for Alex and Lynard Barbosa that choice has haunted them for years. What they chose to eat for dinner on the night of March 12, 2004 saved their lives, but they worry that it condemned the lives of the ones they love.
The night Matt Self, Austin York and Mark and Rosa Barbosa were murdered, Alex and Lynard lost friends and family, but they think they were close to joining the deceased. By simply choosing to stay at home and eat fish instead of going to eat pizza with Austin, Matt and Mark, the two brothers narrowly escaped a similar fate to those murdered on Truett Street 10 years ago. But while Alex and Lynard know that not joining their friends saved their lives, they can’t help but ponder other outcomes.
What if they had been gone to CiCi’s pizza with their friends, and then subsequently to their Aunt Rosa’s house? What if they could have stopped the gunmen in time? What if?
This game of “What if?” is common for everyone involved that fateful night. Every parent, friend and neighbor wonders what might have happened if they had done something differently. In reality, the many aspects that led to the events on Truett Street could not be avoided and cannot be changed. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to wonder.
“If it wasn’t for my dad frying catfish, I would have been with them, I would have been in that truck. Literally I was walking out with them and I smelled that catfish, fresh from the fryer, and I had to have it,” Lynard said. “But was I supposed to be there that night? I was Austin’s protector, if I had gone with them could I have done something different to change it?”
Alex agreed with his brother’s sentiments. He wondered if he hadn’t picked up Austin, who was immobilized from a broken collar bone the week before, and brought him to the Barbosa home that night … if he wouldn’t have eventually gone to his aunt’s house on Truett Street.
“If I hadn’t picked up Austin, Matt never would have come over, Mark never would have gotten in the truck with them later and then there would still be three people here today. But then I ask myself, why wouldn’t there be four? What could I have done to save my aunt?” Alex said. “We didn’t have answers for so long, so we were all looking for someone or something to blame. So I blamed myself.”
This blame wasn’t easy for either of them to overcome in the days that followed. As those days turned into years of investigations, the two brothers stood by each other emotionally. Few people have lost as much as they did that night. Brothers on the football field, a brother in blood and a beloved aunt were taken from them, but Lynard says they can’t focus on that loss, or the what if’s, because that only leads them to darkness.
“In the end, I knew that I had to stay strong and if I kept thinking so far off like that, I honestly wouldn’t be here today,” Lynard said. “And if I do get too down and start thinking like that, this big guy next to me is always there. We’ll talk, we’ll hash it all out.”
That’s not to say that Lynard and Alex, the “big guy” next to him, haven’t had their moments of weakness together. When their brotherly bond brought them closer together in tragedy, it sometimes turned their combined sadness into hatred. A dangerous feeling to share. When investigators arrested and tried Raul Cortez, this hatred burned brighter than it ever had before.
“I had never truly known the meaning of the word hate until that trial. I would just stare at this person who changed my life, who was 20 feet away from me, and I just wanted to cause him pain,” Alex said. “Many times we had the conversations about how we would get to him. Many times we would look at each other and say, alright we’re gonna do it. I’ll block the guards around him and Lynard would get to him and make him pay.”
The hatred these brothers shared for their family’s killer was known by at least one other. Nancy Self, Matt’s mother, could see the hate in their eyes and took it upon herself to talk to the two brothers.
“Please. Don’t do anything stupid. Please.”
That’s all she said, but it reminded Alex and Lynard of the consequences and that they were better men than the violence that was trying to consume them. But that’s what this tragedy did, it bonded everyone involved. From the parents that lost children, to the students that lost friends, to the McKinney citizens that lost a sense of safety, this event connected this city. A lot was lost that night, but everyone has spent the past 10 years moving forward, attempting to remember the lives of those lost, not their deaths.
Alex and Lynard are in their late 20’s now. They both have children and they’ve started their own lives. It’s these lives that help the Barbosas look forward.
“New life has given me a ‘go’ again. I had an extreme amount of ‘go’ before all of this and that’s what Mark saw in me, he saw the fire in me,” Lynard said. “And now, 10 years later, my two boys, my nieces and my nephews, they have given me this ‘go’ again. This is why we’re here. Not to focus solely on the past, but look forward to this new chapter and figure out how to combine the two.”
And that’s exactly what McKinney as a whole is working towards. Remembering our past, while looking toward our future.
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a seven-part TSB series, Truett St. Tragedy, Then and Now, a detailed look at the murders of Austin York, Matt Self, and Mark and Rosa Barbosa. The murders took place 10 years ago. Our city lost its innocence that night. So did all of us who lived through it. We’re forever changed. We hope you’ll continue with us on this heartbreaking, yet hopefully inspiring journey.
TRUETT ST. TRAGEDY, THEN AND NOW
-Part 3: The Barbosas
Parts 4-7 will run daily through March 13.