Vigil held in Hartford for International Overdose Awareness Day

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) –On Saturday, International Overdose Awareness Day, a beautiful memorial grew at the State Capitol.

Families who’ve lost loved ones to the opioid crisis gathered to comfort each other, remember their loved ones, and to raise awareness about the opioid crisis hitting our state and country.

Nancy Lawlor tearfully relived the pain of losing her son, Mike.

“And I never got to say goodbye,” she said. “I miss him. I miss him in my life.”

Purple flags placed on the front lawn of the Capitol represented a victim of the opioid crisis in Connecticut last year. There were 1,017 flags.

“The hardest thing for a parent is losing their child,” Lawlor said.

News 8 is sharing families’ stories because they wanted to speak out and prevent other families from having to endure their pain.

Lawlor says Mike was 35. He was diagnosed with brain cancer. Doctors gave him oxycontin for a year. She says Mike became addicted and once told her:

“I don’t do it to get high,” she said. “I do it so I don’t get sick.”

She says one of Mike’s friends told him to try heroin to deal with the pain and the withdrawals. Mike then went to a drug dealer and thought he was buying heroin. It turns out it wasn’t heroin and Mike ended up taking 100 percent fentanyl, which killed him.

There were other stories, too.

Cassandra Sommers’ son, Bradley, died at 22. He was an Eagle Scout.

“Bradley went to his grandmother’s house for Christmas,” Sommers said. “And while he was at his grandmother’s house he was actually recovering from another illness and he was in a lot of pain and he found his grandmother’s morphine and he took his grandmother’s morphine. At 2:13 Christmas Eve he looked up safe doses of morphine. By Christmas morning we were getting a phone call he did not wake up Christmas.”

Bradley and Mike’s faces appeared on posters that circled the Capitol lawn. They were faces of those killed in the opioid crisis. The posters were part of The Poster Project by an organization called “Today I Matter”. That spells out Tim. John Lally’s son, Tim, was the inspiration behind the poster project to help reduce the stigma of addiction.

The Poster Project travels all over New England. Lally and other parents feel it allows their children to make an impact after their deaths because when people see the long rows of pictures, they’re moved.

It humanizes the crisis.

“When you see these faces, it hits you here,” said Lally, pointing to his heart. “And that’s what you take home with you and makes you think differently or maybe feel this is a problem I should be concerned about.”

“People don’t look down upon these people anymore,” Lawlor said. “They’re good human beings that get caught up in a disease process and they’re people — they’re humans.”

Next weekend, the Poster Project moves to Jewitt, Connecticut. The event in Hartford for International Overdose Awareness Day was hosted by Connecticut Team Sharing, Inc., Today I Matter, and The Hope Initiative.

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