This week, a movie star died. I had never heard his name before when I started seeing it everywhere, along with cries of “so tragic!” and “he was too young!” Just from casual observation, I learned that he was in “The Fast and The Furious” movies (which I have never seen) and died in a car crash. The “what a fitting way to go” jokes have already started, which is a shame. I am only just now Googling him to find out more.
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Paul Walker was born September 12, 1976 in Glendale, CA. His Hollywood career began when he was just two years old when he starred in a Pampers commercial. He landed supporting roles in “Highway to Heaven”, “Touched by an Angel”, and “Varsity Blues”, but his success is mostly owed to his undercover cop Brian O’Connor in “The Fast and the Furious.” He was in the middle of production of the seventh “Fast and Furious” film at the time of the crash. The filmmakers are unsure of how to proceed with the film, as Walker still had several more scenes to shoot. In just a few days, on December 13th, you can see his most recent work, an independent film called “Hours,” in which he plays a father trying to keep his newborn baby safe in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But Walker didn’t just play a skillful speeding driver in movies; he actually raced as a hobby offscreen. Until he died on Saturday, November 30th, he often competed in the Redline Time Attack racing series. His racing partner and long-time friend Roger Rodas was in the fatal crash with him. Both men were at a charity event at Rodas’ car shop that day. The event was held to benefit children affected by Typhoon Haiyan, and was the last in a long line of generous acts of philanthropy by Walker. Once, he even paid for a complete stranger’s wedding ring without a second thought. His charity is described on their website as “a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets who augment local expertise when natural disasters strike in order to accelerate relief efforts.”
Upon leaving the event, Rodas and Walker got into a 2005 Porsche Carerra GT and went for a drive, but presumably lost control only minutes later and crashed into a light pole. The car immediately burst into flames. Staff members of the charity heard the crash and rushed over in their cars with fire extinguishers, but it was too late. Even after every fire extinguisher was used, the remains that paramedics had managed to extract from the Porsche were unrecognizable. Official identifications will have to be made from dental records after extensive autopsies.
Paul Walker is remembered as a generous, loving, and dedicated family man and friend. His father, Paul Walker Sr, recalls time and again when his son had wanted to take a hiatus from acting in order to spend more time with his daughter Meadow, now 15, and then he’d be offered another movie. He was always torn between his love of acting and his love of his daughter, who was at the Typhoon Haiyan charity event but did not witness the crash. Roger Rodas’ 8-year-old son, however, reportedly witnessed the crash and attempted to get help for his father, but to no avail. The son is one of two young children that Rodas leaves behind.
After the crash, fans, friends, and family members left behind flowers, letters, and pictures at the charred crash site. This continued all weekend. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose a family member so suddenly, much less my dad, so my heart goes out to Meadow and the rest of Paul’s family, along with Roger’s family. Clearly, both will be missed very much. My condolences go out to everyone hurting right now.