Empty Chair Campaign Raises Awareness on Fentanyl Deaths
A blue chair sits empty in the front yard of Terri Nelson's home in west Erie. It's a way to remember her son, Charles "Dar" Smith, and fight for a cause close to her heart.
“My son was poisoned on June 17 of 21' and this display is to fight for justice. . . get justice for all of the children lost to fentanyl. Fentanyl is the number one cause of death between the ages of 18 and 45 and my son was one of them," Nelson said.
The Empty Chair Campaign is a nationwide effort to spread awareness and advocate for more in-depth investigations into deaths from fentanyl overdoses.
“It's just been devastating, and he's never coming back, and I just wish I had known what I know now, then, when he needed me the most. . . I know he's at peace. I'm a little bit at peace and I’ve accepted his death, and all I can do is just help bring awareness. That's what I'm trying to do,” Nelson said.
Nelson said making this display, and getting involved has helped her grieving process. She said her son was hardworking and cared for others.
“In the short time that he was in recovery, he really loved and wanted to help people that were struggling and struggling with homelessness and addiction,” Nelson said.
The national organization that started the campaign, believes that overdoses are drug-induced homicides, and the focus needs to be on aggressively pursuing those who are fueling the epidemic.
“Fentanyl is not an overdose. Fentanyl is murder. My son was murdered. He didn't have a chance. He was trying to get his life together. Yeah, he made a mistake. His one more time, was his last time. But don't ever say it's not your children, or my child would never do drugs. Or don't ever say not my child because it could be your child one day,” Nelson said.