The tribute now known nationwide as “Black Balloon Day” started with one family’s memorial gesture with black balloons for a loved one who died of a drug overdose.
Erin Tremblay lost her husband Greg one year ago on this very day, so her family helped her coordinate a quiet little tribute for him.
“We are raising awareness for drug overdose. Its’ for everyone who has suffered from it and people who are still struggling with it. We are asking people to hand a black balloon outside their house,” said Lauren Hurley.
Hurley is a relative of the Tremblays. She helped the family organize the black balloon tribute.
“We did this in honor of our brother-in-law and we hope he is smiling down on us. We love him and miss him very much.”
Black Balloon Day quickly became a nationwide effort to call attention to drug addiction and its effects on loved ones.
“It’s great to watch it grow and it shows me I am not alone,” Erin said.
Jackie Sullivan of Eerie is one of many parents who know the pain of losing a child to addiction. Sullivan dedicated black balloons to son, Stephen.
“[My son] lost his 20-year battle to drug addiction on September 1, 2015 after a very long and hard struggle. He also suffered from mental illness which often goes hand in hand so I’m glad to [have support] today.”
— WGRZ (@WGRZ) March 7, 2016
Debra Smith from Buffalo also hung her black balloons in memory of a child. Her son Nathaniel died six months ago to an overdose.
“Every day I think about losing him, and how I lost him in such a preventable epidemic.”
Suzanne Kuczka is pharmacist from Buffalo. Although she has not experienced such a loss personally, she says she sees how the drug addiction and overdose“epidemic” has increased over the years.
“Everybody knows somebody in their family or in their lives that’s suffered from this.”
“There is a program in New York State that you can get up to ten needles at a time. Most addicts only pick one, but it gives them a clean needle. When they first come to me, they feel ashamed. It’s a stigma, but I make sure that there is no judgment.”
Erie County officials dedicated themselves to eradicating addiction and preventing the losses that made black balloons and memorials necessary.
“We’re going to keep on working until the day that we don’t have to have events like this, when people are not talking about opiate addiction because we as a community have solved this problem. Until then I guarantee you we’ll be working hard that, that day comes,” said Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.
— Denise Mariano (@Denise__Mariano) March 6, 2016
The county also created a group for Erie’s own epidemic of opiate addiction. County lawmaker Patrick Burke, county lawmaker, spearheads this group.
“We’ve seen it for far too long that this crisis has been ignored unfortunately and now we have to respond strongly and vocally and let people know and the families of victims know that there government that the community at large is here for them.”
Erin Tremblay and her family were happy to share the comfort that the black balloons brought to the world.
“This day is hard and we are trying to make it a positive thing to show people are not alone,” Erin said.
Over 40,000 people total joined in remembering loved ones with black balloons today.
[Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images]