When Vivian Lanzarone learned last year that three young individuals in the area had died in quick succession from heroin overdoses she decided she could no longer sit on the sidelines. She began to work on a film about the local heroin crisis, entitled “Not My Child,” that is framed in letters from a parent to their lost child. It was recently shown to a large gathering at the Barn at the Buttermilk Inn & Spa in Milton.
The voice of Heroin is sprinkled throughout the film.
“My name is Heroin. I destroy homes and I tear families apart. I take your children and that is just a start…My power is frightening, just try me and you’ll see but if you do, you will never break free. Try my once, I will never let you go, try me twice and I own your soul.”
Lawrence Hertz said his son, Kyle Fisher-Hertz, overdosed on heroin on September 20, 2016 at the age of 26, leaving behind his partner Amber and their two-year old daughter Magdalene.
Hertz said his son was a fledgling stand up comic and a student at the University of Washington. He had to “call a halt” to his studies because he spent his money on drugs. For three years he underwent detox regimes in Nevada, Massachusetts and California.
“Kyle was the real deal but he was also an enigmatic contradiction. He battled his demons and his depression while throwing himself headlong into life, cracking jokes, hurtling down ski slopes, scaling mountains and stooping to help a child. Heroin destroyed all of this,” his father said.
Lawrence, near tears, said when his son died it “ripped the fabric of our family and continues to do so…Kyle I’ll miss you every day for the rest of my life, but I know I’ll draw comfort from the good times we had.”
Heroin: I make you steal and I make you lie. You do whatever it takes just to get high. I will destroy you body in every way and you will slowly die each and every day. Your teeth will rot, your hair will fall out, your body will break down until there is nothing left and we put you in the ground.”
Lloyd Police Chief Daniel Waage said the impact of this crisis is nearly overwhelming.
“I can tell you from my experience in over 23 years in law enforcement that we’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “The epidemic that not only are we seeing in this county but across this country is unheard of and this drug touches everybody.”
Waage said it is incredibly difficult, “to have to knock on a door and speak with a parent and let them know that their son or daughter that they had such high hopes for had died from a heroin or opioid overdose.”
Waage said an arrest for heroin can be a slippery slope.
“It leads to court time, embarrassment for you and your family because your name may very well appear in the newspaper. That will lead to your future not being as bright,” he said.
Sue Hecht lost her son Brandon Storms to a lethal dose of fentanyl laced heroin when he was 29 years old. She said Brandon started using drugs at 25 and struggled for four years before dying on May 19, 2016.
“I fought this disease with him, standing by his side every step of the way. I will not allow his addiction to define his life. Brandon was an amazing young man who was generous, funny and full of life. It is very difficult to go on but I know he’s an angel on my shoulder,” she said.
Hecht cited a passage she wrote in her journal about her son.
“I remember the words in my Mother’s Day card nine days before you left us; ‘You are truly my hero’ is what you wrote to me. I remember the son who always called me Mama. I will always remember the Brandon that you were before heroin took control of your life.”
Heroin: You will give up everything, your family, your friends, your money, your home. You will be all alone and I will take and take till you have nothing left to give. When I finish with you you will be lucky if you live.”
Michelle Brown spoke about her son Kevin, who died from a heroin overdose on September 4, 2016. He was 25 and struggled with drug addiction for six years. She read a letter she addressed to him six months after his passing.
“I wish I could go back in time and change everything. Where did I go wrong as a parent? I educated you on drugs, I told you how bad they were and to stay away from them. I did everything in my power to try to keep you safe…What happened to my sweet innocent baby boy? How did we get here? Where did things go wrong?” she read.
Brown said she will never get to hug her son again “see you get married, see you succeed in life, see your children. You will forever be 25, you had so much more to do here. Until we meet again my sweet boy, I hope you are waiting at the gates greeting me with your big hugs. Love, Mommy.”
Cody Troccoli died on March 24, 2016 at the age of 22, leaving behind the love of his life Danielle and a daughter Giovanna, who had not yet been born. His mother Kelli penned him a letter on March 10, 2017, which would have been his 23rd birthday.
“As I woke I realized this would be my first March 10th without you in 23 years. How would I get through this day? How would I get through this month?” she asked.
Kelli said upon learning that Cody had died from a heroin overdose she fell to her knees.
“I let out a gut-wrenching scream from the depths of my soul. My baby was gone, how will I ever survive this?” she said.
Kelli recalled the long road she and her son traveled on as he tried to kick his addiction.
“How did my scholar athlete, my kind, smart, popular, beautiful funny boy end up a heroin addict? Your death has left a huge void in my life and in the lives of so many others,” she said.
Kelli wished that her son who had struggled so much here on earth would finally find peace in heaven.
“There will never be a day that I am not proud to call you my son. I love you to the moon and back. Happy birthday my sweet boy.”
Heroin: “The shakes, the sweats, the visions you will see, these are all gifts from me. You will forever regret that you tried me, they always do but remember you came to me, not I to you.”
Medic James Kent said when he arrives on the scene of an overdose “they are not breathing but they have a pulse, they’re usually purple, so we start an IV as soon as we can and administer Narcan as well if the police haven’t done it already.” He said “when they wake up in the ambulance, if they’re lucky, most of the overdoses ask what am I doing here and deny they took anything. Right off the bat they’re in denial. I didn’t do anything. I don’t take drugs.”
Kent said once a child takes an opiate “its their first step to their last step. Anything to stop that first step is critical. Heroin is the last thing you try.”
Vivian Lanzarone brought the film to a close, recalling the death of her 17 year-old stepdaughter, Tori, from an overdose on September 3, 2009.
“I struggle every day that I couldn’t save you. I’m mad at myself for letting you go and not fighting harder. I just didn’t know what else to do. I kept thinking you would get better and things would turn around; unfortunately, they never did. Your life was worth more and I want you to know that,” she said.
Lanzarone said she has never forgotten her late stepdaughter.
“I think about you every day. I talk to you all the time and I look for signs that you’re still here with me. I love you, I miss you and you will be forever loved. Love, Viv.”
By Mark Reynolds