I don't usually think much of celebrity deaths. The last I can remember being upset about was Dan Wheldon in 2011, but most people probably don't even know who he was. I was watching the Indycar race he passed away in live on ABC that day. When he wrecked I didn't think too much of it. You see a lot of pretty nasty wrecks when you watch motorsports long enough. Soon after the wreck though, you could tell something was...different. When they brought out the big yellow tarp and put it over his car, everyone knew what had happened. It was the first time since I started following racing that I had seen a fatal accident and it served as a morbid reminder that racing cars is still dangerous.
Yesterday we learned that Paul Walker, most famous for his role as Brian O'Conner in the Fast and the Furious franchise, passed away in a fatal car accident. He was a passenger in his own Porsche Carerra GT, driven by his friend, colleague, and race driver Roger Rodas. When I learned of his passing, and after confirming it was not a hoax, I found myself feeling the same way I did about Dan. For whatever reason, this one was a little more personal than most celebrity deaths.
Paul's performance in The Fast and the Furious was never exactly earth shattering, but that movie franchise essentially defined my late teens and early twenties. I was sixteen years old when the original was released. I had just got my license and my first car: A 1989 Honda Accord. While I already had a small interest in cars, FATF was almost single handily responsible for my deep seated love and passion for cars, tuning, and driving. Off set, Paul was well known to be a legitimate car lover, racer, and collector. A part of the gearhead family.
While my love for gaudy body kits, neon lights, and big spoilers has since passed me by (and I have zero shame or regrets for having been "that guy"), my love for cars has persisted since I first saw that movie in 2001. In my late teens and early twenties many of my best friends were people I either met through car culture (Online forums, car meets/shows, etc.) or at least shared a similar passion for cars and tuning.
Say what you will about the Fast and the Furious franchise, but it turned a lot of people into gearheads who otherwise wouldn't have been. Possibly including myself.
So it is with a heavy heart that I say: Thank you and good bye Brian O'Connor. Rest in peace Paul Walker.