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‘He was growing into being a fine young man’: Family reels from loss

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A cross bearing the names of three local teenagers sits surrounded by roses. It’s a memorial on the road where Andrew Clements, Matthew Whitfield and Bailey Widener lost their lives in a car crash earlier this week.

Earlier, we spoke with Bailey’s mom, and now we’ve been able to talk to Matt’s parents. They didn’t want to be on camera during the interview at this time.

“He was growing into being a fine young man,” said Tim Whitfield, Matt’s dad.

Matt’s family says this is has been the toughest day for them since their son lost his life on Monday night. The numbness has worn off, and the pain has set in.

“You start talking about it and you’re like did this really happen? And now you’re accepting it and you started remembering. And you start the future that didn’t happen,” Tim said.

The future was looking bright for the 17-year-old. Matt had dreams of joining the Marine Corps after high school. He was also talking about wanting to move in with Bailey and Andrew, the two other teens who died in the crash.

Now, his family is left lost, trying to figure out how to cope with the pain of losing a child.

“You don’t know. You’ve never done it, so you just kind of feel your way through it -- hope things get better day by day,” Tim said.

The pain comes back every time they walk past Matt's empty bedroom. Every time they see Matt's truck in the driveway. Every time Matt's phone rings, as friends and classmates send messages that they'll never get an answer to.

But Matt’s dad says the community has sent a message to the family -- they are loved, and they are not alone.

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