EDITED: For a Celebration of Eric Nguyen's Life and Donations for the Eric Nguyen Scholarship Fund
This will be a big ordeal which I am currently trying to get out of obligations that are beyond my control, but hopefully I can get out of them.
Also edited for photos of Chase on 9/6/07
I didn't know the guy, had only briefly met him once, and he would email me from time to time, answering stupid questions that I had when I wanted to chase tornadoes, but after I found Eric's website of the Mulvane tornado, I knew I had to learn everything there was and needed to know it now. He would be the only one that would give me the time of day, as most "respectable" chasers, would never email me back. I looked up to him.
Back in 2004, Derek Shaffer and I "chased" the Mulvane tornado by seeing a tornado watch on The Weather Channel, and driving in my car listening to KFDI of where it was at. We didn't see the Mulvane tornado, but saw the Rock up close and personal. After seeing that updraft straight up with a weak tornado underneath, I suddenly realized that I needed to do this more. Some google searches yielded us with Jason Politte and Eric Nguyen. Well, we saw the Mulvane shot and were astonished by it. Over the next few months I would ask him what he used, and how to basically find tornadoes (pretty much stupid crap that I'm sure I would get annoyed with now). He would always email me back, and I felt the least I could do was buy a print from him (Which I wanted anyways ;).
As time went on, I stopped bugging Eric for questions and joined Stormtrack and found the chatroom by chance and from there on out, I started to catch on to what they were always talking about forecast-wise (Shane, Amos, Mike H, Matt S, Neal R.) and eventually met Darin because he lived in Lawrence and was close to me. Funny story of how Darin thought I was an idiot for pm ing him so we could chase together.....but we did and still do, and I'm still an idiot. I always would ask Amos in the chatroom how he was doing, since he never really made himself present in the public scene.
I really don't like most storm chasers and laugh at the silliness and hierarchy and politics of the community. I respect those who help others, who aren't selfish or arrogant, and present themselves as a modest, nice person, which narrows it down quite a bit. Eric not only had these qualities, but he was the best of the best in all categories. Photography, meteorology, a person, a friend, he was king of them all. He was the guy who found the needle in a haystack on days everyone else busted, he was the guy who got the shot of a lifetime, which most chasers dream of, and he did it annually.
But most of all, he wasn't trying to promote himself, or drowned himself in arrogance over the money he made off of some killer video. He just kept to himself, posting to his website with updates, that we all anticipated. It was pretty clear that his passion for weather was different than what others were. He had a special gift and a respect for the atmosphere that many others will never have. No one will ever forget he and Scott Curren's dream 2004 season, where they would find tornado after tornado, and documented them soundly. Arguably, Eric was the best chaser of his generation, and was unselfish enough to share his wisdom with complete strangers.
Reading through the pages and pages of people voicing their concerns over the matter, it is very hard not to lose it when you read what his closest friends had to say about him. Each of them spoke from the heart. I read the last paragraph of what Scott Blair read, and thought it was brilliant. I know none of them will read this blog, but I hope they know what he said is exactly right. I hope that they will be able to heal and continue to live their lives normally, while celebrating Eric's life at the same time. Eric is okay now, he is safe and isn't sick any longer, and more sooner than later, he will be greeting his closest friends and family once again, the Eric you guys remember. At 29 years old, he accomplished more than many do their whole lives. He'll be remembered for quite some time, as his photograph is in the Smithsonian Insitute. So while some are wealthy in possessions, he is forever remembered in history.
As I woke up this morning and sat outside, a cool breeze and familiar smells of the fall season had arrived, the summer here was giving way, and the new changing of the season was born. It only made sense that Eric had passed away. Thank you Eric for the inspiration you gave me through your photographs, and the time you took out of your day to reply to a noob and loser like me; you contributed to giving me new hope, and gave me a hobby that I am passionate about, and subsequently gave me direction in a time that I was lost.
Spoken from a true friend, which he obviously had many of...
You have left this life, and I don't know why. But I welcome the opportunity of annual companionship that undoubtedly lies ahead. Because the wind will forever whisper your words and laughter to those that listen. And the rusty windmill will wave a soothing acknowledgment of your presence. You will be witnessed over the unending green fields, capped by a condensation canopy of your liking. We know where to find you. You will never leave us, and we will never leave you. Goodbye my friend, until we meet again.