December 2, 2021

Vigil to remember those who OD’d

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A banner touting International Overdose Awareness Month hangs in front of the Cortland Fire Department’s Court Street station. A candlelight vigil is planned for Aug. 31 — International Overdose Awareness Day — at Courthouse Park in Cortland to remember local and Central New York individuals who died of an overdose.

Spencer Michael O’Gorman was 22 years old when he died of an overdose in 2017, his father, Dean O’Gorman said Tuesday.

Dean O’Gorman said he didn’t then recognize the signs that his son was addicted to opioids, but since then has joined Healing Hearts Collaborative and become its program director and trainer to make sure they don’t experience what he did.

“The loss of a child for me is beyond devastating and I don’t want them to ever know what it’s like,” he said.

Dean O’Gorman, and others from local and Central New York addiction support services organizations, plan a candlelight vigil Aug. 31 at Courthouse Park in Cortland to remember those who have died from overdose as part of International Overdose Awareness Day, states a release from Healing Cortland. Starting at 7 p.m., the hourlong event will include speakers along with the presentation of portraits of families or individuals who lost loved ones to overdose.

People may share the names of loved ones who have died of overdose and stories about their lives, O’Gorman said.

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More than 300 pairs of donated shoes will be displayed at the event as well, he said. These shoes represent the typical number of people who die each day from drug overdose in America. Following the event, the shoes will be donated to CAPCO’s clothing closet, he said.

Karlene Shafer, also a trainer with Healing Hearts Collaborative, said she started attending remembrance events and grief groups after her daughter, Nicole Sherman, overdosed on heroin with added fentanyl in 2017.

Sherman was 38 years old.

“It gives you a time to reflect and realize how many lives they touched,” Shafer said.

Following the death of her daughter, Shafer joined 607 Healing Hearts, which she said helped her forge connections with people who understood her pain.

“We understand how we feel,” she said. “When I look in their eyes, I see mine.”

Dean O’Gorman said he hopes the event can help people come together and remember their loved ones in their own personal way and “where the sadness can almost be peaceful for them” in their grieving.

“I would want each person to be remembered in their own positive way,” he said.