PONCHA SPRINGS, CO—Still reeling from the sudden loss of their 17-year-old son last week, parents Ben and Martha Harwich spoke Tuesday about the largely unremarkable young man they said would have faced a disappointing and frustrating future had his life not been cut short by a car accident.
"Everyone who met Brandon could tell right away he didn't have much to look forward to," Ben Harwich told reporters. "You'd spend five minutes with him and just know he was destined to settle down 20 minutes from home with a job he could barely tolerate and a family he started far too young."
"He wasn't a bad kid," added Harwich, sniffling back tears. "But not exactly one in a million, either."
Clutching a framed photo of her son, Martha Harwich said the pudgy, awkward adolescent who generally avoided eye contact with people had the kind of personality that failed to make much of an impression on anyone.
"He never once lit up a room with his smile," said the bereaved mother, explaining that while Brandon did smile from time to time, no one ever seemed to notice. "It's not that anyone disliked him. I'm just not sure they cared one way or another. It just hurts so much to think of all the people who will never get a chance to feel indifferent toward my boy."
A senior at Poncha Springs High School, Brandon had a grade-point average of 2.3 and was not known for his participation in any extracurricular activities. According to teachers, his death, while awful, did not deprive humanity of a mind that could have achieved great things.
"I certainly wouldn't have been surprised to see him enroll part-time at a community college," said Bob Palumbo, Brandon's American history teacher. "But most likely he would've hung around for a semester or two, then dropped out. After that, I'm not really sure what a kid like Brandon does with himself."
"Not a lot of potential there," added Palumbo, shaking his head. "Not very much at all."
Brandon's parents acknowledged they had not provided the support needed to help their son overcome his average-at-best intelligence or natural lack of ambition. In fact, they admitted to burdening him with psychological issues that, had he survived, would have helped ensure his unhappiness as an adult.
"We didn't raise him the best we could," Martha Harwich said. "Chances are my husband's bullying and my own frequent passive-aggressive digs had already undercut whatever prospects Brandon might've had to contribute something to the world. To be honest, he was in pretty deep even before that truck ran a red light."
Classmates of Brandon said they were struggling to find a meaningful way to honor their fellow student's life.
"We'd like to do something special, but Brandon doesn't really give you a lot to work with," said acquaintance Kevin Singh, 17, adding that he could not think of a single hobby or interest Brandon possessed. "We'll just tie some balloons to his locker or do something with armbands. Something sort of generic, I guess."
Economic indicators suggest that upon reaching adulthood, Brandon would have faced an uphill battle in today's poor job market, which is particularly tough on younger, entry-level workers.
"On top of everything else, he would have had to contend with the negative effects of global warming," Stanford University climatologist Judy Lucas said. "Had he lived, this would have proved a great challenge to him in the coming decades, and from what I understand, it was the last thing he needed."
When asked to share his favorite memory of his son, Ben Harwich told reporters it would be difficult given Brandon's blandness and reluctance to leave the house.
"He wasn't exactly a memory-making kind of guy," Harwich said. "I'm just glad he's in a much, much better place."