WORCESTER (CBS) — A large crowd gathered at Worcester City Hall Thursday to observe International Overdose Day.
They planted purple flags on the lawn of the UMass Memorial Medical Center – 2,069 of them.
Those flags dot the lawn of the hospital, each flag representing someone who died in Massachusetts last year due to an opioid-related overdose.
And, each flag represents the family and friends who are now coping with loss.
Some of those family and friends wore their grief on their faces as they crowded around a microphone outside Worcester City Hall.
One-by-one people who lost a family member or friend to drug addiction said their name.
Aileen Lovejoy lost her son to drugs four years ago on Mother’s Day. He was in-and-out of drug rehabilitation until turning to heroin.
“If my message saves or touches a life, I feel I made a difference,” Lovejoy said to the crowd.
She co-founded a support group called Next Step for parents of children who died from drug addiction in the Worcester area.
“It’s taking them to these places is taking them away for us,” Lovejoy said.
Her story was one of many at city’s vigil for Overdose Awareness Day.
Frank Huntley calls himself the pill man. He recreated himself using his pill bottles from his opioid addiction. His drugs were Oxycodone and Methadone.
“I hope this opens people’s eyes and shows how a pill can really get out of control,” Huntley said.
His was a cautionary tale too late for those whose names were read. But, for the friends and families struggling – remembering means a commitment to ending addiction.
“I miss that I can’t share the love of his daughter with him, but I pray he’s watching over is” said Lovejoy.
September is National Recovery Month. The month is intended to focus on awareness of the problem and resources. The month is also set aside to celebrate those who have recovered from an addiction.