MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dozens of people filled Martyrs Park downtown Saturday evening for Overdose Awareness Day, and everyone in attendance came with one thing in common: they've all lost someone close to them to an overdose.
For the grieving family members, while each day is still rough, it’s comforting knowing they’re not alone in the healing process.
"I've never had anyone to die close to me before," Angel Gipson said.
Gipson now raises her 7-year-old granddaughter after her own daughter died from an overdose in 2017.
"She made it to the hospital and didn't make it because she didn't have me as her emergency contact," Gipson said. "I didn't even find out until two and a half hours later."
Years later, and Gipson said each day she fights to move forward.
"The first year was a complete nightmare," she said. "I didn't want to be here. If it wasn't for my daughter and granddaughter, who's to say that I would be?"
Gipson was far from alone at the awareness event Saturday.
Hundreds of pictures of people who have died from an overdose were hung at Martyrs Park as a constant reminder that anyone could become a victim to drug abuse.
According to the Shelby County Department of Health, more than 200 people in the Mid-South died from an overdose just last year. And this year, that number is expected to be even higher.
"It's just unbelievable," advocate Sharon Walker said. "Where's the outrage? 200 people a day — gone."
Gipson and many others said their loved ones deaths will not be in vain, and they will continue to raise awareness one step at a time.
If you know someone struggling with addiction, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline for referral information at 1-800-662-HELP.