LORAIN — Standing outside Lorain City Hall with posters and signs, nearly 100 county residents came together in an effort to raise awareness about heroin addiction.
“Say No to Dope” and “Hope not Dope” were some of the phrases motorists saw as they drove by, honking horns and cheering.
Other phrases tore at the hearts of parents.
Posters reading “RIP Tera” were carried by the loved ones left behind after Tera Guest died Jan. 29, 2014. Her two children wore yellow shirts, with her photograph depicted on the front. The simple word, “Mommy,” was written next to the photo.
Tera Guest’s mother, Laura Pinero of Sheffield Township, knows the effects of a drug disease first-hand — she is raising her grandchildren as her own because her daughter died from using heroin.
“She was living at the Faith House, she was getting over her addiction and she passed away en route to the hospital,” Pinero said Friday. “I will never forget the day Dr. (Stephen) Evans told me my baby died. It took control of my daughter one more time. My daughter got high.”
Guest’s death affected Evans, the Lorain County coroner, deeply. He now speaks publicly against using illegal drugs.
“We are losing a lot of young people. This is an epidemic for the United States, and we need the public to help us and we need to stop this,” Evans said. “For every one person who dies, another 100 are abusing.”
But Friday wasn’t focused only on those who have lost a battle to addiction, but provided hope to those who are living with the daily struggle to use.
Recovering addict Jessica Justice, 28, of Avon, found the courage to speak.
“I have been fighting my battle for six years and I struggle every day to not use. I choose to live,” Justice said.
Vermilion resident and mom Chelsie Hensley, 26, said heroin addiction does not discriminate.
“I am a four time overdose survivor,” Hensley said. “One time I overdosed with my daughter in the car. I am in recovery. Tera saved my life once. I wish I could have been there for her.”
Lorain resident Nancy Krasienko’s plea spoke volumes.
“Heroin has almost taken my baby’s life. We have to stop this epidemic. I don’t let my grandbabies play outside because there is a heroin house on my street. There are more overdoses on heroin in Lorain County than in Cuyahoga County,” Krasienko said.
Krasienko is pleading for her daughter to seek treatment, but on Friday night, her daughter wasn’t at the rally.
“My God, save our babies! I am gonna raise my grandbabies,” she said with tears streaming down her face.