BINGHAMTON (WBNG) – Family and friends of loved ones gathered at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton Friday night to honor the lives of local victims of addiction.
In between the pews of the sanctuary were tombstones with pictures and names of local men and women who have died from overdoses and drug-related incidents.
“They were fathers, sons, brothers, sisters. They were humans,” said the member of the social justice department at Tabernacle United Methodist Church, Roman Whitmore.
“We wanted to be able to gather the community together. To be able to grieve together and to be able to dream together,” said the pastor of Tabernacle United Methodist Church, Harold Wheat.
One of the many stories shared Friday include John Stringfield Junior, who started the vigil four years ago.
“Johnny was a delightful human being,” said Penny Stringfield-Heiss, John’s mother. “He actually organized the very first vigil here, which was in February of 2015. He went to treatment two days later and the vigil is actually the last time I saw him before he passed away.”
John died of a heroine overdose in 2015 and though his life ended too soon, his idea to help other families grieve over loved ones lost to addiction, continues to impact lives.
“I’m in recovery myself and thinking about Johnny and thinking about what he went through and what his family is going through right now. He is my guardian angel,” said Whitmore.
John is just one of nearly one hundred lives honored and remembered during the vigil.
Families, friends, politicians and volunteers lit candles to symbolize love, grief, courage and remembrance.
“A lot of times grief, particularly for something like this can isolate people. When we come together, not only do we recognize that we are not alone but we see that there is power in being together and we can get things done,” said Wheat.
Stringfield-Heiss says the vigil is also a way to shine a light on an issue affecting too many in our area.
“I think this is a wonderful for opportunity for not just people who have lost someone, everybody has been impacted by this in this community,” said Stringfield-Heiss.
Before the vigil, local organization,Truth Pharm held Narcan training to educate others and help stop overdose deaths in the future.