By Louis C. Hochman
Originally published in the Kent County Daily Times · March 26, 2007
Note: The story below was a companion to two other stories, also by Louis C. Hochman — a mainbar about the accident described briefly here, and another sidebar about the related death of Andrew Coit later that evening.
Friday night wasn’t the first time 14-year-old Darien Plass had been drinking. His mother said that like a lot of teens, he flouted rules from time to time. His Myspace page shows him with a bottle of Captain Morgan rum in one hand.
The choice to drink likely played a part in his collision with a pole Friday night, after he took his mother’s van out for a joyride. His mother, Tina Plass, said she hopes Darien’s friends and peers understand that.
“The message I want to get out there is, ‘Please don’t make the mistake of drinking and driving,'” she said Saturday afternoon, just barely half a day after Darien was pronounced dead at Kent Hospital.
A LIFE THAT TOUCHED MANY
If Tina Plass steps out her front door on Main Street in the Phenix section of West Warwick, she can see the site of her son’s death easily. The harsh reminder is just down the road — in front of 782 Main St.
But Tina Plass doesn’t need that unfortunate visual to remind her of her son, and the impact he had on those around him. Dozens upon dozens of Darien’s friends provide that for her.
Saturday, countless visitors came to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at the pole — one that by then not only honored Darien, but his friend Andrew Coit, who died in a crash at the same location while visiting the memorial overnight. A police officer stationed at the scene said as many as a dozen people might have been at the site at any given time.
“I love you brotha,” reads one message written in marker on a T-shirt Coit left behind before his own demise. Another: “Mi muy encante Darien.”
And prominently, on the pole itself: “Darien’s pole. Respect it!”
Most of those who visited to honor Darien also came to see his mother, who left her door open to a seemingly unending procession of friends. At any time, four or five might be on the front porch or in front of the house, holding their heads low and talking little.
“I knew he had a lot of friends,” Tina Plass said. “I didn’t know just how many he became so close with.
CLOSE TO FAMILY
The Plass household was no rare sight for many of those friends — it’s where they often gathered to spend time with Darien. Tina Plass said she got to know her son well — he was close to his family, even during strained times, she said.
All of the Plass children are adopted by their single mother. Darien leaves behind two brothers, and a toddler sister. He’d been raised in West Warwick since Tina Plass adopted him when he was just three weeks old. He attended West Warwick High School until recently.
He particularly adored his sister, whom he called “the princess,” Tina Plass said.
A year ago, he was among those left behind himself — when his older brother died. That was the start of a difficult year for the family, and for Darien in particular, Tina Plass said.
“He had a lot of trouble with that,” she said.
Following memorial services and a private burial this week, Tina Plass plans to have Darien cremated, and put to rest at Highland Memorial Park.
HIS OWN WAY
Lisa Smith, a friend of Tina Plass’, said Darien always had his own style.
He loved his afro hairstyle — “He always told me ‘Don’t touch the afro,'” his mother said. He dressed in big, baggy clothes — but not just any big, baggy clothes, Smith said.
“They had to be a certain style. He always had to have the right hat, the right shirt,” Smith said.
Darien’s mother described her son as “a little bit out of the ordinary” — and a great joker.
“He loved to make people laugh,” she said.
Darien and friends would make up elaborate, goofy skits to keep themselves entertained.
“They’d make jokes, put on wacky clothes — whatever they thought was funny,” Smith said.
Darien loved what most teens love, his mother said — spending time with friends, watching movies, listening to his music. He spent a lot of time in his computer, instant messaging friends and posting to Myspace.
In the wake of his death, Darien’s Myspace page has become something of a tribute, with dozens of friends posting their condolences and memories. Many heavily use the same sort of slang Darien used.
Among the messages posted:
* “RIP Darien Joseph Plass we miss you alwayz an 4-eva 🙁 ”
* “RIP Darien … forever missed never forgotten … why do the good always die young … hope your in a better place now.”
* “Even tho u was a lil punk sometimes =/ I still loved ya! can’t believe this even happend.”
* “I miss you so much — I still remember when me n cece were drivin and I saw you walkin on the side of the road and I made her turn around and she pulled over and I jumped outta the car and gave you the biggest hug ever — I really wish I never let go. I love you do death and you’ll be missed. RIP babyboy.”
* “Damn Darien it rely hasn’t hit me that ur gone. i jus can’t belive it. I know we havent talked in a mad long time and i actually kind of missed it. you where such a good person. you had so many friends and there aint no one that dont miss you and love you man. just remember that you are missed but neva forgotton. i love you darien and i’ll see you at the gates. at least you in a better place now man. i love you.”
* “Darien Joseph / we all love you so much / we’ll be strong for you / we’ll think of our times with you and laugh / cause thats what you’d want right? / for us to smile when we think of you / cause I know I do / and I always will / from the day I met you in 4th grade / until now/ you’ve always made me happy / I’ll miss you / R.I.P. D.J.P.”
A HARD LESSON
The resident of 782 Main St., who asked to be identified only as Kenny, was among those in a crowd surrounding Darien’s car after his collision late Friday night. He placed a sheet over the teen, for the benefit of the teen’s friends.
Kenny said he knew Darien in passing, and always considered him to be a nice neighborhood kid.
“The thing kids need to get out of this — either they can learn from this, or they can continue to live life as they wish to, and not listen to their parents,” Kenny said. “I hope they learn from this.”