At the doughnut shop jukebox, he played a song his best friend had liked. Outside the bowling alley, he pointed out the spots where he and his friends had gathered to play Frisbee and had carved their names on a pole together.
Alan Cole, the 18-year-old who was driving a pickup truck that hit a tree on a rural road in Anne Arundel County Tuesday night, killing eight of his friends and injuring three others, has been spending the past few days visiting, one by one, the old places where he found his friends in life.
Yesterday, as he stood on the spot where he and his friends used to play Frisbee, he closed his eyes for a second and said, "I'm just getting a good feeling. I'm not thinking about what happened. I just want to think about all the things that happened before" the accident.
Cole, a tall, muscular youth with bushy red hair, who still has stitches over one eye and on his right arm, says one place he will not go is to the shock trauma unit in Baltimore, where two of his friends injured in the accident still are listed in critical condition.
"I've seen enough pain . . . I lost two of my best friends," he said.
He said he believes his dead friends are "at peace" now and that somehow, they think the accident was not his fault.
He says he has been able to get through the last few days since the accident because the parents of the dead youths have told him that they do not blame him.
"I've heard from all the parents . . . They say they're on my side . . . They said they're hurting because they know I'm hurting," he said.
Over the objections of his father, Cole said he attended a memorial service Thursday for his dead friends at Meade Senior High School, which five of the dead youths had attended. His father feared that his son would be attacked or harassed by the other students, Cole said.
But a hush fell over the auditorium where the service was held when Cole entered, limping and sobbing and supported by the sister of one of the youths involved in the accident.
"People were coming up to me, saying, 'Hey I know what you're going through,'" he said.
The one thing Cole remembers before the accident happened were the headlights of a green Toyota that he said were coming toward him on the narrow road.
Three of the youths were with Cole in the cab of the truck, the other eight were riding in the open rear bed. Cole said at the time he was thinking about the people in front, who would be injured if there were a head-on collision.
"I was thinking about saving three people and I lost eight," Cole said, fingering the stitches on his right arm.
What happened in the next few seconds, police said, was that the truck went off the road, glanced off two trees, hit a third head-on and over-turned.
Cole remembers lying side by side with his friend Kenneth Sassaman, 16, in an ambulance and saying, "A lot of people are dead."
"Kenny said something like, 'yeah, we gotta be glad we're alive.' Then he asked me to hold his hand. My arm was hurting like crazy, but I took hold of his hand."
Before the accident, Cole said he had "a couple of beers" at the bowling alley, and had bowled two games. Then the group decided to go to one of their favorite gathering spots, the Pond area, at Patuxent River Park. He was not intoxicated and was not speeding, he insists.
Among the dead were Paul Morenz, 16, and Robert (Tommy) Weaver, 18, who Cole said were his best friends. He and Weaver were planning to strike out on their own in California soon, said Cole, who considered himself the "big brother" of the group of friends.
"I think they understand," he said of his dead friends. "I think they want me to go on living. I think they want me to be who I am . . . happy, carefree ol' Al . . .
"You know, I always thought it would be neat to be in the headlines," he said, dropping his head toward his lap, shaking it. "But I never wanted anything like this to happen . . . I didn't want to hurt anybody."
Although the teen-agers had known each other only about a year at the most, Cole said they had become like brothers and sisters.
"Just the other day Tommy was saying to me. 'Hey, we've been through a lot of good times and bad times together.'"