By Ed Runyan
An assembly by several Howland teachers Wednesday appeared to shock, educate and sadden the district’s high-school students with messages about the consequences of using drugs.
Shocking was a video of a young woman holding a frying pan and an egg, reciting the familiar “this is your brain on drugs” message from years ago as she smashed the egg with the pan.
But she added to the message, quickly reaching a manic state as she yelled: “This is what your family goes through” as she loudly smashes dishes with the pan, “your friends,” finishing with “your future” and “your life” as she destroys the entire kitchen and the commotion dies down.
Capt. Jeff Orr, commander of Trumbull County’s top drug investigative unit, asked the gym full of students whether they had plans of becoming a doctor, a police officer, a teacher.
“Are you working on those plans so that your vision is fulfilled? Are you putting those plans together to make sure whatever you want to do in life you’re successful at? Because that’s important.
“That plan involves surrounding yourself with good people to help you make good decision in life,” he said.
“Because with the drug epidemic we face in life today, one bad decision, going off that path, can put you in jail, or it can put you in the grave,” he said.
When the students first filed into their seats, some of the seats were filled by poster boards containing photos and information about seven Howland High gradutes from 2000 to 2010 who have died of drug overdoses.
The sisters of two of those people spoke during the assembly, one of them Lama Green, whose brother, Mohannad Saleh, died in August from an overdose.
“Pills soon turned into heroin, and heroin became a lifelong battle for him and for our family,” she said.
On the day her brother, known as Ned, died, her father called her and said, “You need to go home. I think your brother has passed away.”
“I went home to find out that my brother and his friend were both dead,” she recalled.
The trip to the funeral home was another shock.
“To see his lifeless body lying there, I could not believe what my eyes were looking at. He was so cold to the touch of his hands. I laid on his cold chest, holding his hand, trying to warm him up.”
She placed the shoes and clothes he was wearing when he died on the podium.
“Now this is all I have left of him, besides our memories that I will always hold dear.”
“If you saw him, you would not have known he had an addiction,” she said. “He was clean for seven months. Those were the best seven months of my life. He fought this battle for many years.”
Other presentations were given by Judge Jeff Adler of Girard Municipal Court and Nate Durig, a firefighter paramedic with the Howland Fire Department, who described heartbreaking scenes he has encountered when responding to overdose calls, such as children of addicts, who “have a plan for what to do whenever mom or dad overdoses” because it’s happened before.
The school made counselors available to students after the presentation so that they could talk about anything that came up during the presentation.
“We all care deeply about each and every one of you,” Superintendent Kevin Spicher said. “We want you to stay away from all of the things that will cause your future to cease immediately.”