Drug Overdose Support Group places over 200 crosses in front of Knox County Courthouse


KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — International Overdose Awareness Day is recognized at the end of August, but a group of East Tennessee moms is remembering those lost to drug abuse all month long.

Saturday morning, the Overdose Family Support Group placed crosses in front of the Knox County Courthouse in honor of those who have died just this year due to drug overdoses.

Sharon Hajko wore purple and gray as she helped lay crosses down, not because those are her favorite colors but because they remind her of her son.

“I lost my son Justin on January 27th of 2017,” she said.

Purple and silver are the colors worn to bring awareness to those lost due to drug overdose.

“My son he was more than his addiction,” said Sharon. “He liked to cook, he liked to play chess. He would stay up all night online playing chess with his best friend across the country.”

Justin was 38 years old.

Sharon added, “He had been clean and sober for six years and then I got that knock at the door.”

It’s a knock no parent wants to get, but Sharon isn’t alone.

“You don’t ever want to lose a child but at least there’s other people in that group that understands what your going through and can relate,” she said.

Tracee Smith with the District Attorney’s office and the Drug Overdose Support Group Coordinator said, “the overdose family support group was brought on four years ago by the drug-related death task force sponsored by KPD and the District Attorneys Office.”

They placed the crosses outside the Knox County Courthouse to remember the lives lost. So far this year, there are over 200.

“When people are going back and forth, going to their car, and coming back into the building, they see that this memorial is here for this month and they can see how many crosses and how we add to it every day if there’s a life lost,” said Smith.

It’s a visual reminder of how addiction can impact a family.

Smith added, “They are not just a statistic. they were somebody’s loved one.”

It also reminds others that they’re not alone.

“It isn’t all about losing our child, but it’s about honoring their lives and showing people that they were more than just their addiction,” Sharon Hajko said.

Sharon will continue to wear purple to remember her son, others who have died because of addiction and to acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind, knowing she’s also not alone.

There will also be a ceremony at the crosses at the end of the month on August 31 at 6 p.m. There is help out there if you or a family member is struggling you can call the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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