Emotions flowed as freely as the spirits which were being remembered this afternoon, steps from the doors of city hall.
A project, months in the making, was unveiled to the public for the first time and it brought tears to hundreds of eyes.
“You are important. Your life is important. You are important to your community and its future,” said Mayor Christian Provenzano speaking directly to anyone struggling with addiction. “We acknowledge your challenges, we care about you and we are working to provide you the support that you need and that you deserve.”
Provenzano spoke first to approximately 200 people who had gathered for the unveiling of the memorial wall. The memorial is meant to be a place where those who have lost someone to addiction can go and reflect. It also serves as a reminder to the public at large of the human cost of the epidemic which is running rampant in our society.
Tia Fleming’s mother, Lisa Foggia promised herself she would never let Tia’s death go in vain. As a member of Saving Our Young Adults from prescription drugs, a partner in this project, she spoke to those gathered.
“Tomorrow marks 10 months without my Tia. As I reflect on her childhood, she was such a happy, loving and exuberant child, her beautiful smile, and her love for life will always be remembered. Let’s all make an effort to extend our compassion like she did,” said Foggia. “The memorial wall is a very personal thing to us to Tia’s name is on there as well to honor her life and reflect and remember, it shows us a struggle that she shared with others. It’s a visual representation to our city and community that her life mattered and she will never be forgotten.”
As the memorial was unveiled, audible gasps and sobbing were heard throughout the crowd as little stars, carrying names of loved ones, were shown on the much larger piece. Connie Raynor-Elliott, founder of SOYA shared her thoughts on the importance of the memorial earlier in the day.
“We need this, so many do not have even a marker for them. It is a reminder that substance use disorder can take anyone any age, any time, any race, any gender, it robs us of our loved ones,” said Raynor-Elliott. “The memorial wall is not only somewhere where families can grieve their lost loved ones, but it is also a lasting reminder that we must continue to break the silence and shatter the stigma surrounding substance use disorder, and that as a community we are only as strong as we are together, and as fragile as we are divided. We must continue to remember that every person struggling with substance use disorder is someone’s loved one.”
The ceremony included a moment of silence led by Provenzano, emotional stories told by members of SOYA and the ability to sign rocks to place at the bottom of the memorial.
Mayor Provenzano told SaultOnline after the fact that the whole project was built in house by city staff, for the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie.
The memorial is located east of the flags in front of Sault Ste. Marie City Hall.