Remembered : 16-year-old Zack MacQueen’s promising life was cut short after snorting methadone at a party
The next time you see a bolt of lightning, remember Zack MacQueen.
That’s what many across the city — and particularly in Old South — will do as they cling to memories of the 16-year-old boy who sometimes jokingly called himself Lightning MacQueen and who died suddenly last week after a night of partying.
The teen’s parents wait for police or a coroner to confirm what they know — that their son died after snorting a powdered, prescription drug, methadone.
In the days after his drug overdose, nearly 1,000 people joined a Facebook page set up in Zack’s memory, filling it with memories and general warnings against snorting methadone.
He didn’t know it was methadone, said several friends. Someone brought it to the party. He thought it was crystal meth, say some. He thought it was Percocet, say others.
It doesn’t matter, they insist. All that matters is Zack is gone.
On the page, one friend recalled Zack’s devastation on seeing a dog hit by a passing car, and recalled him sitting with the dog until its owner came looking for it.
Others wondered if he was responsible for the bolts of lightning seen over London since his death.
“He loved lightning,” said his mom, Colleen Morton. “Called himself Lightning MacQueen. He loved purple, he loved camping, smores. He was a clean freak.”
Clinging to whatever she can remember, Morton said she still has an old Mother’s Day card he gave her as a boy. It was filled with promises, and all of them involved cleaning.
“I don’t remember him crying, ever,” she said. “Does that make me a bad mom? I don’t know, I guess it does.”
She hasn’t stopped crying during a two hour interview.
Zack was smart. In and out of trouble since he was young, he won the Grade 8 math award at Princess Elizabeth public school, despite three suspensions that year.
He went to South secondary school for Grade 9, but ended up suspended and at the school board’s U-Turn alternative education program before starting fresh at H.B. Beal last year. Within a few weeks, despite absences, he was excelling in academic math, she said.
“He could have been anything. A doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut. ... He could have invented things. I don’t know, maybe this was his purpose in life,” said Morton.
Zack was closest with his dad, Gary MacQueen. The elder MacQueen told The Free Press he wanted to talk about his son, but wasn’t ready yet.
“His dad’s not doing so well whatsoever,” said his on-and-off girlfriend of four years, Alicia Coaker.
Coaker still had Zack’s skateboard this week. He rode it over to her house the last time they hung out.
“He was good at skateboarding. He was really gifted at a lot of things,” she said. “Literally, he was the strongest, most positive person I knew and he did get suspended and stuff, but really he was polite and very respectful and he was just an amazing guy.
“Everybody loved him,” she said, laughing for an instant as she recalled their first meeting. They were with a group of friends, going to watch Shrek 2 at the theatre.
“Right away, he started telling jokes. That’s who he was,” she said. “He’d tell you a joke, or do anything to make you smile in some way, and then you would just love him.”
There is a lot of pain and guilt among those who love Zack. Many contacted through Facebook wouldn’t comment, afraid whoever brought the methadone to the party is racked with guilt.
Nobody wants to blame anybody for Zack’s death. Boys said to be his closest friends didn’t want to talk, but others did.
“Man that kid could make me laugh,” said Steph Lefave, 22, in a Facebook conversation. “Although I did not have the privilege of knowing Zack as long as I would have liked, I will tell you ... he did not judge. He did not boast, he didn’t hold grudges.”
His mom is gutted by regret.
“I regret letting him go to his friends so much on the weekends, thinking I had the rest of his life.
“I never pushed those issues. I wanted to let him be a teenager. Maybe if I had put a tighter chain on him.”
She clings to the memory of their final conversation.
“He always said ‘I love you’ and I know my last words to him were ‘I love you,’ and his were ‘I love you, mom.’ ”
The family is planning a public memorial party for Zack next Wednesday night at Rouge nightclub.
By Jennifer O’Brien The London Free Press