Close to the Heart

Suspending my normal jocularity for the moment I find myself posting tonight on a topic very close to my heart, my sixteen year old daughter. I normally try to maintain some semblance of privacy about who we are and where we are from, but any amateur detective could figure it out with a minimum of effort. Given the gravity of what occurred today here, I’ll throw caution to the wind.

At around noon today I got a call from my wife. She said that our daughter had been a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident. I called her and she indeed sounded OK. She wasn’t hurt and she said no need for us to come out there. But being the pesky sort of parents we are, we headed out anyway. My wife from her direction, me from the office. As I topped the hill near the intersection where she was supposed to be I could already see flashing lights. Drawing closer, there were at least 3 firetrucks, a dozen police cars, and the entire street was blocked in both directions.

I parked a couple of streets away and headed toward the accident scene on foot, greeted after several yards by the sight shown below from the Dallas Morning News. Shortly thereafter I spotted my daughter, unharmed, sitting on the median curb.

I’ll spare you the details of tearful hugs when I arrived, the relief I felt, the relief I believe she felt when she saw that we had ignored her requests not to come. Her mother showed up shortly thereafter, more hugs, tears, and relief.

In the moment it was hard to fully grasp the magnitude of what had transpired. We knew she was riding in the rear seat with someone she didn’t know – a friend of a friend. She had been invited to lunch and found out when they got outside that this guy was picking them up. It’s hard to fault her logic, even in hindsight, although I would prefer she not ride with people she doesn’t know well. But in reality, they were only going a mile or so to have pizza for lunch and right back. What could happen right?

What happened was that two boys, the one driving my daughter and the one driving the other car were overcome with the testosterone or whatever it is that makes young men drive too fast. They were caught up in some “Too Fast Too Furious” fantasy where they were under the mistaken impression that somehow going faster than the other validated their worth. Now one dead. One in the hospital. One in serious trouble.

One paid the ultimate price. The other will most likely pay the price later – once charges are filed and I have little doubt that they will.

The part that pisses me off is the price my family almost had to pay.

So tonight I’m happy my daughter is OK. Sad that this young man, a high school senior, didn’t make it. Anxious about the few days and weeks to come. Thankful that no one else was seriously hurt. Angry as hell at this young man who took my daughter’s life in his hands and almost wasted it. But at the same time, sorry for what his parents and family will be going through. In a word – conflicted.

But I am not conflicted about this – and this is my message to you – love your children every moment of every day. Tell them, show them. Love them until it pisses them off then love them some more.

This is a lesson that I should already know. Should have learned almost 30 years ago when I lost my Mother. But today was a stark reminder to me that life is short. Sometimes too short. Just because I have passed more days on this earth than my Mom doesn’t mean that my children will receive the same gift. Just because I have passed more days on this earth than my Mom doesn’t mean that I will continue to be so lucky.

I thank God for my daughter’s friends who have been calling, texting, and coming by to show their support. I thank God for her coaches who have shown their concern and compassion. I thank God for the Plano ISD and Plano Senior High. I can’t even begin to describe in rational terms without blubbering how professional, compassionate, and helpful they were today. Most of all I thank God for every extra moment He gives me on this earth to spend loving the five gifts He has given me: My wife and my four children. He and I both know I don’t deserve them. I only pray that this loving compassionate God is with the family of the young man who was lost today as well.

Love hard. Live Well. Hug them till they squeak.

Tough out.

Update: 10/14/2006 8:49 AM CDT – Police have released the name of the PSHS senior killed in yesterday’s accident. His name was Mark Tu. His Myspace site is full of references to his car which an article in today’s DMN says he had named “Foxy Roxy.” Also he had included the notation “Racing = My life” along with a slideshow showing the work he had done on his car. Most chillingly, Mark in his “Tell me about yourself – the survey” answered the question “How do you want to die?” with “in a car crsh (sic).” You can view his Myspace here.

Update: 10/18/2006 2:13 pm CDT – The following notice was sent to subscribers of the PSHS eNews mailing list regarding the memorial service for the student killed in last Friday’s accident:

“The Family of Mark Tu encourages PSHS staff and students to attend a
Memorial Service on Saturday October 28th at 3 p.m. at the Dallas Chinese
Fellowship Church at 2640 Glencliff Drive, Plano 75075. 
Any other services that may be planned are limited to family and invited
guests only.

Thank you in advance for respecting the family’s wishes.”

Plano student dies in car wreck

05:39 PM CDT on Friday, October 13, 2006

By JENNIFER EMILY and KIM BREEN / The Dallas Morning News


PLANO — A Plano Senior High School senior was killed and another student was injured Friday in a car accident just after they left campus for lunch, said police and other students who saw the accident.

MILTON HINNANT / DMN

 

A number of classmates witnessed the accident.

The two male students were headed for CiCi’s Pizza for lunch just before noon when the driver lost control of a red 1995 Eclipse and wrapped the car around a utility pole along West Park Boulevard.                                                                       MILTON HINNANT / DMN

Plano police spokesman Rick McDonald said investigators believe the Eclipse and a black Ford Mustang were driving at a high rate of speed when the vehicles collided, sending the Eclipse into the pole.

Several Plano Senior High students who saw the accident said the driver of the Eclipse did not signal before it moved into the right lane just before the accident.                                                                          

One of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other was transported to Medical Center of Plano in unknown condition, Mr. McDonald said. The names of the individuals involved are being withheld due to notification of family members.

The impact caused the utility pole to splinter at its base.

About 40 to 50 students came by the accident scene during their lunch break, hugging each other and talking about the accident, which many had witnessed.

Police were not officially releasing the name of the victim who died, but students near the accident scene said they knew the victim’s name.

Witnesses Nathan Cory, 17, and Bryan Barrett, 18, who are also students at Plano Senior High, said they were driving behind the car before the accident. They tried to help afterward.

“We ran up to the car,” Nathan said. “I don’t think they were wearing seatbelts.”

The students said they heard the passenger screaming.

“We really couldn’t do anything,” Bryan said.

Plano Senior High is an open campus, meaning students can leave during lunch break.

Stewart Allen and Nick Perkins, both 16 and juniors at the school, said they also tried to help after they passed the accident on their way to CiCi’s.

“It was pretty gruesome,” said Stewart. “The loss is tragic. It could have been us.”

Plano ISD spokeswoman Nancy Long said news of the accident was spreading through the school.

“When students began returning from lunch and learning about the tragic accident, the teachers allowed them to go visit the counselors if they needed to,” said Plano schools spokeswoman Nancy Long.

She said some students chose to leave school when they heard, and their parents were notified.

“We send our sympathy to the families of these students,” Ms. Long said.

A power outage affected the neighborhood within a mile radius of the accident. 

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23 thoughts on “Close to the Heart

  1. Kerry October 17, 2006 / 11:39 pm

    I have never been to your site before but I did a search looking for an update on Mark Tu’s memorial service or an update on the injured student, and google led me here. I live in the neighborhood at Park and Woodburn Corners. My daughters are elementary students at Weatherford. They had a half-day of school on Friday, so I decided to pick my 16 year old son up from school early as well. He attends Guinn, but would be attending PSH. (we moved here from Denton last spring and he was 1.5 credits short of attending PSH)
    I drove past the closed road on Friday and wondered why all the traffic was being diverted into our neighborhood. I was, as I think all parents were, devastated at the news. I think those of us with children of driving age felt it even more. I could see Mark Tu growing up, a baby when my son was a baby, his first steps, the world around us during his early years. Now it’s all gone. It makes me angry too. It was such a selfish, senseless act! The only thing that will make it more tragic is if other teens don’t take heed…
    I made the decision last spring, before my son’s 16th birthday, that he was not ready to drive. He is a great kid, but I do not feel he has the maturity to handle that responsibility. It seems both teens and parents alike feel the driving age is a right of passage rather than a privilege.
    I guess I am writing because I feel compelled to thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry your family has been placed in this tragedy in this way. I cannot imagine the toll this has taken on each of you or what your daughter faces in her healing process. I wish peace for all of you and the other families involved in this unthinkable tragedy.

    Semitough Sez: Thanks for stopping by. My daughter is doing fine, I appreciate you asking. I hope all of the kids involved are doing as well as she. The support of her friends, teachers, coaches, other parents has been amazing. I applaud your decision regarding your son driving. It’s hard to make the tough call, but no one knows your child better than you.

  2. Danielle EAST October 20, 2006 / 3:51 pm

    That kid was stupid to do that, i feel bad but not that bad. That was his own choice and what he did have scarced people for life and have to live through it. I think if a kid has a privliage to drive a car, they should drive it right.!
    Plano East student.

  3. Cheryl Cory October 21, 2006 / 2:05 pm

    I truly know how you feel. My son was following Mark to Cici’s. He and Brian were first to the car and both were pretty traumatized. The cobra came up fast on him and he got out of the way. Seeing the newspaper with his name shook me pretty badly too. My prayers go out to Mark’s family.

    There’s a device from this site called http://www.16ndriving.com that tells you whether your child is following the speed limit etc..
    I think it helps deter speeding just because the kids know you CAN check.

  4. anonymous plano student October 24, 2006 / 3:13 pm

    Okay, the girl from east needs to shutup. Before you go and say anything about Mark and what happened how about you think about the people involved. How could you say something like that when you know people are mourning and hurt about this whole incident. You seriously have NO heart, so before you go and say something how about you think about the kids at PSHS, his family, his friends and all the people that witnessed the accident. He had best friends and a family too. So just think about his family and friends before you start making assumptions. Thanks.

    Semitough Sez: I don’t want this to turn in to some sort of debate, but will allow both comments to stand for now. I do not think the previous comment was pointed at the kids at PSHS or anyone else other than the individual involved.

  5. RT November 1, 2006 / 4:07 pm

    I am going to make sure my 16 year old daughter reads this tonight.

  6. Annie Chang, Mark's ex-girlfriend. November 6, 2006 / 11:10 pm

    You should know that Mark WAS NOT RACING SO IT WASN’T HIS FAULT. Sure, we’re sorry your daughter might have gotten a scratch or something. At least she’s not DEAD. It wasn’t Mark’s fault, it was the driver of the Cobra. So if you want someone to blame for your daughter’s little dramatic night, it’s the Mustang driver. It was not selfish, or senseless, that Mark was trying to switch lanes and the Mustang flipped him from behind. “Your family almost had to pay?” What about Mark’s?
    I am outraged at your insensitivity towards a death that had an extremely large impact on half of Plano.

  7. Annie Chang, Mark's ex-girlfriend. November 7, 2006 / 9:04 am

    First of all, Mark may not have been racing. You should know that.
    You should also know that if your daughter is riding with a stranger, she is responsible for anything that happens to her.
    Yeah, okay, sorry if your daughter was a little shaken up. At least she’s not DEAD.
    If there is anyone to blame for your daughter’s little traumatic accident, it’s the driver of the Cobra. And I hope that’s who you’re referring to.

  8. semitough November 7, 2006 / 10:35 am

    First, let me say that I am terribly sorry for your loss. While I did not know Mark, certainly as a father of four I mourn the loss of any young life regardless of the circumstances.

    However, If anyone believes that he was not racing they are living in a state of denial. His myspace was all about racing. He was travelling at a high rate of speed. Virtually every witness has testified that the two cars, both Mark’s and the Black Cobra were racing at the time of the accident. I’m sorry if that offends you. I’m sorry if the truth outrages you. I stand by my comments. As a driver, taking your passenger’s lives in your hands to engage in some sort of macho rat race to prove who’s car is faster is both selfish and senseless.

    As far as my daughter is concerned. She’s aware that she made a mistake. And to correct your mistake, this did not happen at night but in broad daylight during lunch. I would have expected anyone who was as “close” to Mark as you claim to be would at least know the rudimentary facts of the case.

    Regarding your faux patronizing comments that you are “sorry if she was shaken up”, save your breath. It’s clear that you don’t mean it so don’t even bother.

    Regarding the driver of the Black Cobra. I certainly hold him responsible for his actions and hope that the Plano Police and Collin County District Attorney do the same.

    Once again, so we’re clear. I mourn the death of Mark Tu. I did not know him, but from everything I’ve heard and read he was a funny, outgoing, intelligent young man. It is a shame and a real loss for PSHS, his family, and his friends that I do not in any way, shape or form mean to minimize.

    This post was written within hours of the accident by a father who’s child came way too close to serious injury or worse, losing her life. My emotions were raw and my primary concern as a parent was then, is now, and always should be, my own children. Hope you can understand this and recognize my right to have differing opinions from my differing perspective.

  9. Annie Chang, Mark's ex-girlfriend. November 7, 2006 / 10:20 pm

    First, I’d like to apologize. The comments were written after I spoke to the officers that dealt with the accident face-to-face, and they basically told me that it was Mark’s fault he was dead, that teenagers should follow speed limits, that Mark should have been held accountable anyway.
    So please, disregard everything I said. Oh goodness, I swear I’m really not like that.
    Also, I know the accident was during lunch.

  10. semitough November 8, 2006 / 6:26 am

    No worries. I hope you are able to come to terms with the loss of your friend. I know it is hard.

  11. anonamous March 1, 2007 / 3:04 pm

    HE WAS NOT RACING! the accident was 100% andrew fryes fault. i witnessed it first hand. all the rumors and bullshit about mark (an amazing student and friend) racing is because of the lack of investigation from the so called plano police (laugh) department.

  12. semitough March 8, 2007 / 10:16 am

    Whether you call it racing or not is semantics. Bottom line, both boys were driving in an unsafe manner at unsafe speeds. Taken with Mark’s apparent love of racing (see his Myspace) it is not a stretch to call it racing and I stand by my description. Agreed that the accident itself was the fault of the young man driving the Mustang. But racing contributed whether you like to hear it or not. I’ve taken great care in this blog to point out that Mark was from all appearances a great kid, well liked, good student and as a PSHS parent I mourn his loss along with you all. That doesn’t change the fact that he was a street racer.

  13. anonamous March 18, 2007 / 7:39 pm

    mark was not driving at an unsafe speed. he sped up to switch lanes andrew was swerving in and out of lanes and almost ran me off the road. i’m sorry but racing was not a factor. the only factor racing had was that mark was using the lunch time to pick up car parts.
    plano police lacked the investigation skills of talking to the actual witnesses and treating this for what it was a man slauter case instead of just an accident. they saw racing because a kid loved cars and working on cars and stoped doing there job.

  14. semitough March 18, 2007 / 10:21 pm

    I think most informed persons close to the case would agree that the charges against the driver of the Mustang were light at best. The Plano PD do not file the charges, the Collin County DA does that and that office clearly missed the boat as they have in several high profile cases recently.

    I can tell you from my personal interviews with witnesses close to the scene that they agreed that the two cars were racing. So you can blame whoever you like, the Mustang driver, the Plano PD, or anyone else it doesn’t change the facts.

    Bottom line, Mark was a racer. He loved his car and working on his car so he could race it. He, along with the driver of the Mustang endangered lives (including yours) by doing so on a crowded city street at lunch time and any other time they raced their cars on the street.

    Your devotion to your friend’s memory is admirable. But I suspect that devotion is keeping you from admitting what is blatantly obvious to everyone else with knowledge of this incident. Admitting the truth to yourself doesn’t diminish Mark or his memory, but it might bring you and those like you a little peace.

  15. anonamous March 22, 2007 / 3:10 pm

    i know it’s not the plano PD that files charges, but they do conduct the investigations and bottom line is that there was close to no investigation of the icident. i have read both the police report as well as all the witness statements including your daughters (by the way i am very sorry she had to suffer through that). the police report leaves out many statements from several students and the plano PD did no follow up on the investigation. The report also lacked to state that andrew had been driving recklessly before contact with mark. i agree that it is the countys responsibility to file charges, but it is extremely hard to file charges when you get a half-ass police report.

    And dont get me wrong i know that mark loved cars and made many modifications to his car and i am not trying to argue with you. i am just saying that ironically at that point in time mark was going the speed limit until he sped us to try and switch lanes. the cobra had left school 2-3 minutes after us and still had time to catch up.

  16. semitough March 22, 2007 / 4:04 pm

    Not trying to argue, and yet here you are again….arguing.

    You need to leave room for the possibility that there are others who have read the police reports, talked to others who were present, and even had one on one conversations with the lead investigator. You need to leave room for the possibility that others who have looked at the same information you have, without prejudice, have come to a different conclusion than you.

    I am as pissed off as anyone else, maybe moreso, that the driver of the black Mustang was only charged with a misdemeanor. I am keenly aware that he was driving recklessly and too fast. But I will not dismiss out of hand other eyewitness reports that the two cars were racing at the time of the incident.

  17. anonamous March 22, 2007 / 7:41 pm

    “without prejudice”
    You automatically asume i have been prejudice in the case because you suspect i was a close friend. Me and mark only became close after his death. through this tragic experience me and marks family have become close. i know exactly what took place during the investigation and how the witness reports came about. half of them came from my car. there was a lot of scetchy police work to say the least

  18. semitough March 22, 2007 / 10:22 pm

    Your own words quoted from groups.myspace.com/marktu:

    “The cobra swerved into the left lane and then cut Mark off and then got into the right lane. Mark was going to CiCi’s too, so he had to get into the right lane. So he sped up and tried to get in the lane, not realizing the bitch in the cobra had sped up with him.”

    Oddly enough, this matches the version of events I have heard from every eyewitness to this incident.

    Now from that, I gather this:

    1. The driver of the Cobra was driving in excess of the speed limit and in an unsafe manner.
    2. After being cut off by the Cobra, Mark sped up and passed, or tried to pass, the Cobra.
    3. Upon attempting to get back in front of the Cobra, the cars bumped, spinning Mark’s car out.

    So here we have your account which agrees with several other eyewitness reports of the black car passing the red car, then the red car attempting to pass the black car back.

    To me this is a textbook definition of street racing. Unless of course this was all happening within posted speed limits which we both know was not the case.

    The logic that Mark was going to CiCi’s and needed the right lane is flawed. From where the accident took place there was ample time to get into the right lane. Once again, speeding up to catch a speeding car and trying to get in front of it falls under my definition of racing.

    The assertion that the Cobra was driving erratically and at a high rate of speed and that Mark was driving the speed limit is contradicted by the statement that Mark sped up and passed the Cobra. Either he was driving the speed limit and got passed or he was driving faster than the Cobra to pass him. Both can’t be true. I believe the Cobra was driving fast and erratically, ergo the other car must have been going at least as fast or faster to pass it.

    If I were the policeman investigating this accident and was presented with these facts, including your statement which agrees with everyone else’s version of events, the physical evidence of the tremendous impact, AND that the deceased was a self proclaimed street racer, I would have no conclusion to draw but that the cars were racing each other.

    I point all this out, not to excuse the actions of the Cobra driver. I have previously stated my distaste for that individual and my consternation that he was not charged with the felony he so richly deserved to be charged with.

    Likewise I do not point all this out to sully the reputation of a departed PSHS student. I have taken pains to state that everything I have heard is that he was a wonderful young man. I point all this out simply to acknowledge that it is what it is.

    Lots of nice people race cars. But it is an inherently dangerous hobby and in this case put innocent lives at risk. Yours, the passengers in the Cobra, the passenger in the Mitsubishi, the other PSHS students on their way to lunch that day.

    This blog is a product of my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Again, I hope you can leave room for the possibility that others might look at the same thing you see and come out with a differing view. My further hope is that you can respect that difference.

    I wish you well and hope that this dialogue is helping you to cope with what you have seen, experienced and felt during this difficult time for us all.

  19. anonymous numero dos April 5, 2007 / 4:21 pm

    sez, youre a dick.
    yes, i know youre probably gonna deride me
    dont care.
    cuz youre a dick.

    had to be said.

  20. semitough April 5, 2007 / 6:51 pm

    Thank you sir. May I have another?

  21. semitough September 2, 2008 / 6:15 am

    A response to “anonamous”: No, I won’t publish your sick profane comment, but I didn’t “delet” it. Instead I saved it for the law enforcement agent who called on this subject last week. Not sure what the renewed interest is in this case, but sir you just stepped right into the middle of it.

    Oh, and your spelling sucks.

  22. Maggie October 3, 2009 / 4:53 pm

    This really is tragic. I feel bad because a life was taken so soon, he never really got to grow up and live life. but, you have to admit it was his fault. His myspace says he’d would want to die in a car accident, obviously proving he wasn’t scared. I would say he was racing also from all of what i’ve read, i wasn’t there but it sure seems like it. I can’t believe both drivers could be so senseless &stupid driving like this, & when your gonna be like that you deserve the consequence. I’m glad your daughter is okay, &as heartless as this seems, he was driving like a maniac, he deserves it.

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