KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A memorial to honor the people who have lost their lives this year in Knox County to the overdose drug epidemic is now visible.
The Drug Overdose Support Group set up that memorial Saturday morning. Family members planted purple crosses to remember loved ones lost.
Each cross represents a drug overdose death in Knox County since the first of the year.
But behind every cross is a name, a face and a story.
“I lost my son Patrick Jones on May the 19th of last year,” said Kim Jones. “He was 21 years old. He struggled with addiction for several years.”
The pain of losing a loved one is a pain so many other parents know all too well.
“My son Justin passed away January 27 of 2017,” said Sharon Hajko. “He had been clean and sober for 6 years, and I woke up and got a knock at the door one morning that I didn’t think I would get.”
Kim Jones and Sharon Hajko were among those planting the hand-made, hand-painted crosses on Hill Avenue Saturday morning, as part of a memorial to honor those who lost their lives this year to the overdose drug epidemic.
“I want to bring awareness to this,” Hajko said.
Saturday, the group planted 182 crosses, but group members say that they are reserving more space because sadly they say they know they’ll be back to put out more.
“It doesn’t discriminate between young, old, male, female. It can happen to anybody in anyone’s family,” said Rick Jones, who lost his grandson to an overdose.
For the people that drive by the memorial and see that patch of purple, Hajko said, “I hope that they stop and think about why those crosses are there, that people have lost their loved ones and that they will be more understanding and maybe help with more education in the community, to help these numbers go down instead of continuing to increase.”
This month alone in Knox County, the district attorney’s office reports five suspected overdose deaths.