I’ve been distracted, for what feels like a century, the past few weeks thinking about the tragic death of Paul Walker and the flurry of emotional outpouring from fans around the world. I’m taking this time now to hopefully bring closure for myself. I never met Paul Walker. I didn’t know his friends. I didn’t know his family. Hell, I haven’t seen all of his movies, but somehow this loss has opened up a wound I thought I’d ever have.
I’ve been struggling to accept the simple fact that he is gone. Like many out there I saw this tweet one Saturday afternoon. My heart sank, but still couldn’t believe it was true:
— Paul Walker (@RealPaulWalker) December 1, 2013
More news outlets started confirming the worst possible thing any fan, friend or family member could hear.
Then, the pictures started rolling in….
It was at this point the whole world realized this wasn’t some sort of sick prank and I think we collectively sobbed when we finally accepted the news.
More pictures came in…
Finally, the saddest and most heartbreaking moment shared to the world was when Tyrese Gibson appeared at the crash site. It’s one of those things that sticks with you. I don’t need to know either Paul or Tyrese to know that they were brothers. Watching one brother mourn for another is a kind of pain I can’t even fathom.
Even as I write this and compile all these pictures I’m still both aching and angry inside. Paul Walker was one man, he wasn’t a politician, he didn’t go to war for his country and he didn’t save people from burning buildings. Who cares, right?
As time passed fans started speaking out about the loss. Many took to social media to mourn while others used it as an opportunity to bash the star in every way imaginable. Social media was flooded with posts that contained RIP Paul Walker or some variation. We continued to mourn publicly together and then, felt the backlash. After a few days went by friends of friends (or random strangers) started speaking out against all the “over sharing” and all the news coverage.
They took Facebook and Twitter by storm explaining he was one man, a nobody if not a star. They continued to remind us that someone else lost their life too. Oh, these posts were passionate and just as red hot as the content posted by the many who were grieving.
Despite all this, I stopped and I asked myself why I cared so much. That’s when I realized….
- Paul Walker was (my) a role model. Yeah, he’s an attractive fit guy, but he was friendly, charitable and someone you could really look up to. He didn’t seem fake. People who knew him say he kept clear of being consumed by Hollywood.
- Brian, Paul Walker’s character from the Fast & Furious franchise, was a family man. For fans, the Fast & Furious is something we’ve been growing up with for a long time now. The films and fans have grown together and though the family portrayed on screen is make-believe, its had a dramatic impact on our perception of bonding, friendship, and loyalty. These films created a world for us to sink our teeth into. A world that most of us have only dreamed about.
- “Nobody cares about Roger Rodas or the men and women in uniform who give their lives every day to defend freedom.” You’re wrong there, completely. People care too deep to admit sometimes. Here’s the reality, people across the world felt like they knew Paul Walker. Who he was onscreen felt very close to who he might have been in real life: a smart-ass, funny, loyal, a brother. That’s why the loss has had such a profound impact on the public. Those who knew Roger or the soldiers who lose their lives every day are mourning just as much. There lies the point. To millions of fans, we knew Paul inside and out.
- He was a humanitarian. Paul Walker founded Reach Out Worldwide, an organization of professionals dedicated to helping those around the world suffering from recent devastation. Paul believed that “When you put good will out there it’s amazing what can be accomplished.” How many people has his organization saved or rescued already? How many more will be helped in the future? Paul was on a mission to use his success to give back to the rest of the world.
- I could be out of line when I say that Paul Walker did more for the car community than most people have done in the past decade. My comments are completely opinion based here, to be clear. His onscreen character showed people around the world that it’s okay to love cars and that the love can be shared by people of all races, color, etc. The car community suffered from some hardcore stereotyping for years. We’d see people of various color portrayed as the low riding hoodlums in Hollywood films. The Fast & Furious changed that, for the better. Paul made it feel okay to be Caucasian, strike down racial barriers, love cars,…and not just any cars…the fastest, sickest, beefed up cars you’ve ever seen.
- I’m sure there are plenty more reasons that can be stated here. Everything from his work ethic, to buying a random couple a wedding ring. What I’ll leave off with, is that as an artist, I hoped to one day meet Paul and have the opportunity to work with him. I think other actors and filmmakers would agree that you have people you dream about working with. You think to yourself, “if I could just get this one deal going then one day I might be able to meet him/her”. It sounds like I got sprinkled with magical fairy dust, but it’s true. I will never have the opportunity or pleasure to know or work with Paul. He was an interesting and inspiring man with more charisma in his pinkie finger than most have in their entire bodies.
I guess I do feel a little better now having put some of my thoughts in writing. I imagine it will take some time to seal the wound and get focused again. It’s likely I’ll never meet his tightly knit co-stars: Tyrese, Vin and so on, but maybe one day they’ll see this blog post and know quite genuinely that one man can and did change the world both in life and death.
Thank you, Paul Walker, for taking us on some sick rides with you. I’m sure you’re testing out some drifting skills up in heaven. Damn, you’re probably racing people car-for-car. Race in paradise and keep that engine running. We’ll be there with you soon.
To his fellow co-stars, thank you for being his friend. You’ll see him again one day.