Those who knew Matt Self distinctly remember two things: his piercing blue eyes and his love for his family. These two qualities made Matt quite popular among his classmates, but it was his devotion to those in his life that makes everyone smile fondly when they remember him.
“He never met a stranger. Even after his death, I still had kids contact me daily saying that Matt had a big impact on their lives,” Matt’s mother, Nancy Self, said. “Even 10 years later people are contacting me telling me that they think about him every day.”
He really was proud of his number, 34. Whether it was his reserved parking spot on the McKinney North campus with a huge “34” painted in the middle or his beloved numbered necklace he’d only let girlfriends wear, the numeral meant a lot to him. It was part of his identity and signified his membership on a team he cared so much for.
“He was the best note-writer and the worst picture drawer,” said Becky (Nye) Logan, Matt’s girlfriend in 2004 at the time he, along with three others, were killed in a house on Truett Street. “He had the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen and his smile could light up a room. He had a heart of gold. He adored his family. He was an extraordinary friend to many. And he was the whole world to me.”
Like many others, Becky’s time with Matt was cut entirely too short. So, 10 years later, as those who loved him remember his life while honoring his death, Matt’s football number plays a big role in his peers’ dedications to their fallen friend. Teammate Colin Bado has a tattoo of Nos. 34 and 38 (Austin York’s number). Classmate Taylor Eastman has a 34 and 38 on her keychain. Matt’s mother can’t go a single day without seeing her boy’s number throughout the world around her.
“Matt gives me signs. I see `34’ everywhere. That’s my sign for him,” Nancy said. “Even when I’m upset or I’m terrified or worried to death about anything, I see that number and I know that Matt’s here with me and he’s watching over us.”
Nancy, who still refers to her late son as her baby boy, had a bond with Matt that most mothers of teenagers would envy. Matt’s family trusted each other, were deeply bonded together in their faith and could be honest with one another at anytime.
So when Matt wanted to spend the evening of Friday March 12, 2004 at a ballgame with his girlfriend Becky, his mother and father felt free to speak their minds with him. Like most parents of teenagers, Nancy wanted to guard her son’s heart as well his well-being.
“You know with young love, we as parents wanted to try and make sure it was being handled in the right way,” Nancy said. “So we told him to hang out with his buddies and not spend the entire weekend with his girlfriend.”
Today, Nancy and Keith say they would do anything to have had Matt at that game instead of with Austin York, and Mark Barbosa at Mark’s aunt Rosa’s home on Truett St.
“We could have let him go to a ballgame, which he asked us to let him do,” Nancy said. “But instead we told him to go spend time with Austin, who had just broken his collar bone. We told him to do something fun with Austin.”
The Selfs were just trying to tame the wild flame of young love for their son. “If we would have just let him be, he wouldn’t have been there,” Keith said. “And that’s hard on us.”
It’s been 10 years and the Selfs know they shouldn’t blame themselves for trying to put limitations on their young son’s love life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t wonder every day what would have happened if they had let him go to that game. This constant wondering has become a heavy burden on their lives and souls as they attempt to move forward.
The lives of everyone close to the Truett Street victims have not stopped in the past 10 years. Matt’s classmates have had to move on with their own lives. His parents still had another son to raise and the town he grew up in would become one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.
Nancy and Keith have since retired at an early age and are trying to focus on the happiness they’ve missed out on for so many years.
“Everyone kept telling us we were too young to retire, but you have not lived my life, you don’t know what I’ve been through,” Nancy said. “My life is what it is because of what’s happened to me. If I’m able to retire and only enjoy a few years of my life then that’s what I’m going to do. We’ve been through enough to live through the pain and suffering. So now we’re going to live our lives the way we want to live.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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 4: The Selfs Search For Happiness That “34” Would Have Wanted
Parts 5-7 will run daily through Thursday, March 13.