Maybe it was the basketball stuck in the front yard tree from Michael's errant throw, or the dog missing the afternoon wrestling partner or the stack of cards on the table from friends, students and neighbors that signaled a void at the Titunik's Springfield home. After the fatal accident on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 30, the loss of 16-year-old Michael Titunik leaves everyone in shock.
For Michael's father, Steve Titunik, disbelief still dominated his thoughts.
"He was supposed to start work on Monday at Bertucci's. You hear this, but when it's your own kid, it's overwhelming," he said.
His wife, Marjorie, noted Michael's outgoing, friendly nature.
"He considered people before himself, that's what they all said. He was just an all-around kid," she said.
Steve Titunik remembered their father-son relationship. Titunik was originally from the New York area, and the two were die-hard Yankee and New York Giant fans.
"He would tell me there was never a secret he would not share with me or tell me or Margie," he said.
Michael was a sophomore at Hayfield Secondary School. "He was a normal teen-ager, a positive young man. He did what normal teen-agers would do. Family was important to him. Michael was loved by many and will be missed by all," his guidance counselor, Catherine Wade, said.
<bt>Last winter, Michael, Steve Titunik and two of Michael's close friends, Brian Brady and Michael Bakshi, went on a "guys only" weekend at Wisp Mountain in Maryland for his latest passion, snowboarding. Brady remembered sneaking into a party at one of the lodges.
"Everybody was looking at us. We ate the food and got these YMCA hats and then they kicked us out," he said, trying to smile at the memory.
Bakshi has lived around the corner since he was in first grade.
"He always had fun no matter where he was," he said.
Older sister, 18-year-old Jordana Titunik, would bring friends over to the house, and Michael befriended them as well.
"Michael was like their friend too," Marjorie Titunik said.
Jordana was very close to Michael too, and decided not to go away to school this fall, as originally planned. Steve Titunik said it may have been fate.
"He was like my best friend," Jordana said.
<bt>Michael turned 16 on Nov. 5 and got a new car with extra airbags, according to Steve Titunik. Not all deployed, the father said.
According to Fairfax County police following the accident, Titunik "was operating a 2002 Volkswagen two-door sedan northbound on Hooes Road just south of Talbert Road. Titunik failed to negotiate a curve and drove off the road to the right. He came back into the roadway and traveled sideways across the double yellow line, with his passenger side facing southbound traffic. Forty-eight-year-old Feshaye Woldemichael, of Grindle Lane in the Woodbridge area, was operating his 2001 Honda four-door sedan southbound on Hooes Road, which struck Titunik's vehicle."
"Alcohol was not a factor, however speed was a factor," police said.
A makeshift memorial occupies the spot where many gathered in the days following the accident — sometimes as many as 40 people, Steve Titunik said.
<bt>At the funeral Sunday, Dec. 2, the funeral home in Kingstowne was filled with Hayfield Secondary School students, some sitting on the floor. Steve Titunik had a message for the teens.
"I talked a little bit at the funeral and tried to get the point across to be grateful. From one moment to another, you never know what's going to happen," he said.
The message and accident got across to Brady and Bakshi.
"I appreciate the time you have with them [family]," Bakshi said.
"It feels like I'm a little more friendly to people. I realize the way I've been treating people," Brady added.
At the crash site on Hooes Road, poems, flowers and notes were left by students.
"You were so easy to hang out with," one read.
"You always made me laugh," read another