WATERTOWN — More than 100 people gathered in front of City Hall Wednesday to raise awareness of substance abuse and to honor the memory of those they’ve lost.
The event, hosted by the Alliance for Better Communities, featured speakers from city and county government along with those directly affected by substance abuse.
A tarp covered in 144 pairs of shoes was displayed to symbolize the 144 people who die every day across the United States from drug overdoses.
City Councilman and Alliance for Better Communities Chairman Stephen A. Jennings began the event by stating that the time should be used to “learn, honor those we have lost, celebrate those in recovery, and erase the stigmas of addiction.”
The Rev. Derrick West, pastor at Mercy Point Church, said an invocation prayer before a declaration was issued by Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott A. Gray.
Speakers including District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills, County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill, Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr., and City Police Captain Michael J. LaBarge followed Mr. Gray’s declaration.
The shoe display was highlighted by Anita K. Seefried-Brown, director of community prevention at Pivot.
“Every day, there are 144 individuals lost across this country. 144 empty pairs of shoes abandoned when their owners lose their battles.”
She said that she believed “if these deaths were caused by anything other than addiction, I think we would have made it known to everyone that we won’t take it anymore.”
Ms. Seefried-Brown then introduced local musician Eddie Cito, who played a song and shared his own experiences with addiction.
By MIRANDA MATERAZZO