Their faces are what stop you.
One is of a knockout gorgeous woman. Another of a former judge. There are innocent-looking 20-somethings and haggard-looking old men and women aged beyond their years. White people and people of color are among them.
They are the faces of heroin.
Fellow journalists from around the country have been emailing these photos my way as part of a three-day series of stories our company, Civitas Media, is publishing about heroin abuse. It begins Sunday and is a tale of what many are now calling the “heroin epidemic.”
Is “epidemic” an overstatement? After all, who or what constitutes something being classified truly as an epidemic? I cannot answer that question, but I can tell you that of the 35 newspapers from 12 states participating in this series, all but a few of them reported major problems with heroin in their markets.
It’s a cheap drug that regards human life even more cheaply. In that sense, we chose to kick off the series with photographs of people who have struggled — even died — from heroin addiction. The idea is to drive home the notion that terrible things such as addiction can happen to anyone.
The beautiful woman mentioned above had it all. She was an outdoors enthusiast who owned a popular sporting goods business in Illinois. Heroin took her life. The judge — or should we say former judge — was involved in the heroin death of a fellow judge. In another case, a mother talks about watching her daughter taken from her home in handcuffs, hoping and praying that her child somehow will survive this terrible addiction.
Hope is the word that people cling to: The hope of being able to fight off the drug’s demons one more day; the hope of being that responsible parent again; the hope of saving a child’s life; and the hope of keeping a community safe.
Since being asked to coordinate this project in January, I have since lost count of the deaths and arrests made during that short three months in the cross-section of communities where Civitas owns newspapers. The tragedies have never taken a day off. They haven’t slowed down. Not in cities like Lima, Ohio, or Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; or in small towns like Harlan, Ky., or Jacksonville, Ill.
The questions continue to be raised:
Why would a person fool around with heroin? What are the warning signs of abuse? How can you help someone work through an addiction? What’s the toll of abuse on a family and a community
We found the questions are many, the answers are fewer, and they come filled with pain.
The one thing that is constant: The problem haunts us in ways that few could imagine.
ROSES AND THORNS: Who’s that belting out a tune in the rose garden?
Rose: To Joe Bunn, who this month celebrated his 50th year of working at Accubuilt.
Rose: To Adriane Thompson Bradshaw. What a treat listening to her sing the national anthem before the high school basketball tournament games at Ohio Northern University. Bradshaw, who is the vice president for student affairs at the university, didn’t try to do anything cutesy with her performance. She played it straight and sang with an emotion the crowd loved.
Rose: To Linda Klausing, of Heidt Animal Hospital. When it comes to customer service, she’s second to none.
Rose: To Martha Noonan, of Lima, who was the grand marshal of Lima’s Irish Day parade.
Rose: Lima hits the national rankings: We’re No. 7 in the nation for affordable housing, according to CNN Money, with a median home price of $85,000 and a median income of $54,200; and we’re Kentucky Fried Chicken’s No. 1 market for selling its chicken bowls. (I would wager, however, that more Kewpee hamburgers are sold on one Saturday than chicken bowls are sold in a month).
Rose: To this year’s winners of Jefferson Awards for volunteerism: Michael Ayers, Roy Baldridge, Denis Glenn, Cindi Hayes, Martha Hutchison, Timothy Macke, Andy Maravola and Dr. Mark Yoder.
Rose: To Janice Horstman, of Spencerville, who had her idea featured in the nationally syndicated comic, “Pluggers.”
Thorn: Without any changes, only three Abrams tanks a month will be produced at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in 2015.
PARTING SHOT: Wherever you’re at, there you are.