On their way home from the first day of classes at Oakton High School, David Chu and Jacob Wilens, both 16, were killed. A dump-truck driver had fallen asleep and failed to stop at a red light at Route 50 and Alder Woods Drive, crashing into the rear of the boys' car. When the truck driver was sentenced Jan. 10 to a year in prison, Chu's father, Irwin Chu, read a letter in court written by the boy's mother, Jane Chu. Here is the letter:

On Sept. 3, 2002, around 6 p.m., I received a chilling phone call from the Fairfax County Police Department that my only son, David, was at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Right away, I handed the phone over to my husband so I could quickly get ready to rush to David's bedside . . . only to realize moments later that there really was no need to rush. David was lying in the hospital morgue, not a hospital bed.

I didn't have the heart to see his bloodstained, mangled body in the cold, dark morgue. Instead, we bid our silent farewell in the formaldehyde-scented funeral home. Even then, I couldn't bear the thought of touching his rigid, lifeless body, especially with the knowledge that parts of him had been donated, according to his wishes. [David's bone, heart and corneas were recovered and donated.]

Ever since then I have been haunted, day and night, by the images of my son lying in a coffin with a broken neck, scenes of that wreck and the phone call that signaled the beginning of this unthinkable nightmare.

We all miss David so very much. Everything we see reminds us of our unbearable loss -- the empty chair, his favorite foods, school buses, snowstorms, teenagers mowing lawns -- the list is endless. I especially miss hearing him say, "Dinner was good, Mom, thanks!" Or, "How was work today, Mom?" Or simply, "Good night, Mom."

Life for our family is forever changed, and as the finality of our son's sudden death sinks in, our intense pain and depressing hopelessness seem to increase. We try very hard to resume normal activities but are often overwhelmed with intense grief.

My daughter and I went to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve as we have always done, and all we could do was weep uncontrollably while everyone else around sang the traditional Christmas carols.

David, who liked to say, "There's something good that comes out of everything, even if we can't see it at first," would have been 17 on Sept. 11. A David Chu Scholarship Fund has been established by the Oakton High School PTSA, Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Rd., Vienna, Va. 22181.

The shock caused by the death of David Chu, 16, above, on Sept. 3 persists in many ways, small and large, for his family. David's older sister, Christine, etched "We Miss You David" in the snow during a recent visit home from the University of Southern California. At left are David, then 2, and Christine with their mother, Jane Chu, in a 1988 photo.