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What I Want My Son's Graduating Class to Know About The Death of Their Classmate

Nobody in the Class of 2016 can rewind the clock a week and get a do-over, and there is still plenty more heartache to come for everyone involved in this situation. In a situation like this, turning life lessons into action is a matter of life and death.
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High school graduation class, Rutherford, NJ
High school graduation class, Rutherford, NJ

An Overdose of Reality

Last Monday night, family and friends celebrated as my son and 255 of his classmates received their high school diplomas

A week later, one of those students died.

My daughter was told about the death at school. My son found out via social media. My husband learned of it from my son. And I received a text message telling me the Spring Mills High School class of 2016 had already lost a member.

Within a few hours, the rumors were swirling through the neighborhood and on the internet. But there was element that never changed: The culprit was heroin.

And while many are simply shocked that a kid with so much potential died from a drug overdose, I'm dealing with a range of emotions.

I'm saddened, and my heart breaks for my son's classmates who are struggling to understand what happened. I'm overwhelmed with how this drug continues to gain strength in my community. And I'm frustrated with the political posturing that's preventing real solutions to this horrible epidemic.

But, most of all, I'm angry.

I'm angry that so many people are expressing surprise that an athlete with decent grades could die from an overdose. This has been happening for years across the country, and pretending it couldn't happen at our school was ridiculous.

I'm angry that my community has experienced dozens of overdose deaths since the beginning of 2016 and yet so many people want to blame the victims and their families instead of work toward a solution.

And most of all, I'm angry that drug dealing is yet another example of how money has become more important than human lives.

Nobody in the Class of 2016 can rewind the clock a week and get a do-over, and there is still plenty more heartache to come for everyone involved in this situation.

I can only hope that the members of my son's graduating class, as well as the underclassmen who will follow in their footsteps, recognize that some of life's most important lessons don't happen in the classroom. Even more importantly, I hope they understand that those lessons mean nothing if they don't use that knowledge in a meaningful way.

In a situation like this, turning those lessons into action is a matter of life and death.

A version of this post orignally appeared on TrinaBartlett.wordpress.com.

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Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.