EVERETT — As the sun set Thursday, and as bright pink clouds gave way to night, candles at the Snohomish County campus plaza glowed beneath photos of those who have died from drug overdoses.
Among those faces were Corey Lee and Spencer Warfield.
Warfield was 24, an Everett Community College student hoping to be a firefighter, when he died of a heroin overdose in 2012.
Lee was 20 and a business major at Eastern Washington University when he died in 2015 after overdosing on cocaine and Xanax.
Both were athletes who graduated from Everett High School.
Both were loved by their friends and families.
Their mothers spoke at the third annual overdose awareness event, “A Night to Remember, A Time to Act.” This year, the focus was on services and hope for recovery, which for Warfield and Lee seemed unobtainable when their sons were experiencing addiction.
“Our family wanted to put a face to those loved ones lost from drug overdose,” Debbie Warfield said. “We wanted to focus on changing the stigma and the shame by telling our story of a great young man that struggled with substance abuse.”
Cathi Lee said she and Warfield had developed a friendship through their common circumstances of losing their sons. They talked about their frustrations and grief and isolation.
They realized that they were probably not alone.
Today, they’re sure they’re not alone.
“2013, our story was shocking,” Lee said. “Today, in 2019, our story is not shocking any longer.”
Last year, 125 people died and nearly 600 people were hospitalized from drug overdoses, according to the Snohomish Health District. There was also a 111 percent increase in deaths from fentanyl overdose.
Other speakers included County Executive Dave Somers; Sheriff Ty Trenary; Superior Court Judge Joe Wilson; Heather Thomas from the Snohomish Health District; Cheri Speelman of the AIDS Outreach Project/Snohomish County Needle Exchange; Lindsey Arrington, founder of Hope Soldiers; and Gretchen Saari of the support group GRASP. The Marysville band SUPERFEKTA played a song written about their guitarist, who is now nearly a decade sober from heroin.
Speelman shared words from people she talked to through the needle exchange program. She asked them what they would want to say to their loved ones.
“This isn’t your fault,” one person had said. “I’m not this way because of you.”
“Please don’t give up on me,” another said.
“If your love could fix me, I wouldn’t be broken,” someone else said.
Speelman explained that addiction doesn’t care what job a person has or how much money they make or what their criminal history might be.
“It doesn’t care who you are,” she said. “… It strikes and kills people wherever it can.”
Wilson, who oversees drug court and has struggled with addiction himself, asked people who were addicted to drugs to stand up.
Several people stood up.
He told them:
“You’re not alone, you never have been alone, you’ll never be alone.”