Overdose awareness display on East Main pays tribute to lives lost

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Photo: Melissa Mosley (Assistant Director at Journey to Recovery), Amy Gillespie, and Melissa Hebert. Photo by Lila Bennett.
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NEWPORT –– A heartfelt tribute has taken shape at the intersection of East Main and Union Street for the third consecutive year.

Today is Overdose Awareness Day, and the monument serves as a stark reminder of the lives lost to addiction, with plates decorated to represent each soul claimed by an overdose in the last year. The poignant display came into existence in 2020 when local resident Amy Gillespie noticed the void left by the Recovery Center, which had ceased this awareness activity.

“Everyone in our community is interconnected, and addiction affects every one of us,” Gillespie said. “Nearly every individual knows someone who has struggled with addiction or suffered an overdose.”

Incorporating CDC data, which reported 300 daily drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2022, the display uses each plate to symbolize a life lost. The Vermont Department of Health noted that of these casualties, 264 occurred in Vermont, with a dozen reported in Orleans County alone. Apart from creating a space for mourning and remembrance, the display also underscores the indiscriminate nature of addiction.

“I believe that having this display allows us to remember the lives lost,” Gillespie said. “To know that addiction doesn’t pick and choose.”

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This year, the event garnered additional support as Gillispie invited Journey to Recovery joined the initiative, and several community members pitched in, decorating plates in memory of their loved ones who tragically lost their battles with addiction.

Beyond its role as a tribute, the Overdose Awareness Display seeks to amplify a message of hope and prevention. It stands as a beacon, encouraging those grappling with addiction to seek assistance and underscoring the availability of help at the Recovery Center. Through these efforts, the community hopes to deter any more stories from ending prematurely due to addiction’s grip.

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