Candlelight vigil to be held at courthouse for International Overdose Awareness Day
By Brooke Curley
SAFFORD – In the face of an ongoing battle against addiction, it’s time to remember those we have lost to overdose.
The candlelight vigil is set for Thursday, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m. on the lawn of the Graham County Courthouse in Safford. The vigil will kick off September’s National Addiction Recovery Month. The event is organized by Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition’s subcommittee Graham County Facing Addiction Committee.
Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor will be speaking alongside Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson, and Jenny Howard will sing a musical number. When asked about the event, Taylor, who also struggled with opiate addiction after serving his country in Afghanistan, told Gila Valley Central that he hopes to convey hope and compassion to those who may be suffering because of the addiction crisis in the Gila Valley.
“I hope to comfort those families (who) have been devastated in our community,” Taylor said. “So many wonderful, wholesome families have suffered horribly due to this scourge and I hope to give them a sense of peace and understanding.”
Taylor said while he has lost many friends to the war in Afghanistan, he has lost many more childhood friends to drug overdoses.
“My heart is heavy on this issue,” he said. “I spent 18 months in combat in Afghanistan and I lost a lot of friends there. But today, I have now lost more childhood friends to drug overdose than I did fighting terrorists.”
Graham County Substance Abuse Coordinator Kathy Grimes told Gila Valley Central that this is the first time that a candlelight vigil has been planned for the day.
“We’re starting probably pretty small this year because it’s our first one but we really want the community to come out and be part of it,” Grimes said. “September is Recovery Month and Judge Peterson is helping us turn the lights purple on the court house for the whole month of September to honor the people (who are) in recovery and encourage all those going through recovery. It’s time we unite as a community and end this epidemic once and for all.”
Judge Peterson told Gila Valley Central that he hopes to convey to the public what it feels like to have the point of view from the judge’s bench. Also, Peterson hopes to illustrate the situation of holding individuals accountable for their actions, yet finding reasonable rehabilitation opportunities.
“It is my fervent hope that this vigil will raise awareness of the devastation of substance abuse in our community and bring us together to support those in our midst who are willing to make positive and lasting changes in their lives,” Peterson said.
Candles will be provided, and if anyone requires further information they are welcome to contact 928-322-2111.