Today, just like every day, an estimated 91 Americans will die of an opioid overdose. Some states report more lives are lost to opioid overdose than in automobile accidents. And it's not just teenagers. It`s moms, dads, even grandparents.
It has been 10 years now since Jeremiah Lindemann lost his younger brother, J.T., to an opioid overdose. For years, Jeremiah mourned his brother's death quite privately. Until one day he realized J.T.'s death could help someone else to live. And that's how Jeremiah's map came to be.
"When he passed away, I really shut down," Jeremiah says, "I didn't want to talk much about it."
"He could light up a room with a smile. A very charming personality. I was jealous of some of the gifts he had, just naturally talented as an athlete growing up and being able to hit real home runs with baseball."
A promising athlete thrown a deadly curve ball — an addiction to prescription drugs that were just too easy to get.
"Being able to go to emergency rooms and saying he was in pain; it was pretty easy," Jeremiah explains.
In 2014, two-million Americans were hooked on prescription opioids like Percocet, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and that number has only grown. In fact, in Alabama more prescriptions are written for opioid pain killers than there are people living in the state.
Jeremiah dealt with his grief privately, until he turned to what he knows best, "I work for Esri who, a software company who does mapping. So everyday I`m working with maps."
Jeremiah makes all sorts of maps for all sorts of reasons; most of them for the government. But this one was a labor of love.
When you click on one of the buttons on this map, you`ll find one of the faces of the opioid epidemic and the heart wrenching stories of loss.
The first button on Jeremiah's map rests over the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. Click on it and you`ll get the story of J.T.'s life and Jeremiah's loss. As word of the map spread on social media, one by one more buttons appeared — each a tribute to and a face behind the epidemic.
When we hover over Alabama on the map, we find there are already four buttons. One each for Glenn James, Shaun Stapleton, Cassidy Aspen Cochran, and Megan Alexandria Johnson.
Megan's mother, Pam Booth, spoke with us about her daughter, "She loved life. She was always involved in church. She was in dance. She loved sports. She was a happy child, very happy."
She was 18 years old and a freshman in college. Unlike many freshman, her mother says, "She was confident. She had goals; she knew what she wanted in life."
But she suddenly dropped out of school and moved in with her boyfriend. Pam says it wasn't long before she realized there was a problem, "And I said I'm going to get you some help. She wanted help. She wanted to go back to school. She wanted to fulfill her goals."
"She never made it."
Megan's entry on the map says when she overdosed, she had benzodiazepine, morphine and heroin in her system. She lived mere minutes from the nearest hospital, but the text under her photo says her boyfriend left her to die.
Pam talks with other young people now at every opportunity. She shares Megan's story with them. She hopes it will make a difference.
Searching for answers and support, like so many other families in America, Pam found Jeremiah's map, and a sense of community.
Megan is now one of the growing number of people whose stories are told here, by brothers and sisters, moms and dads. Some angry, others anguished. All grieving. All victims of America's opioid epidemic.
Our news partner AL.com reports in 2015, 730 Alabamians died from a drug overdose.
That same year, Alabama physicians wrote 5.8 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers.
To view or post on Jeremiah's map, CLICK HERE.