It’s true that every town has a history. Bennington has quite a history to be proud of.
It is also true every town has a secret. Sometimes, it is something deep and dark, emanating from the recesses of pain, sadness and evil. That darkness is here. It has manifested itself within our youth. It is the epidemic of heroin now sweeping this town.
I wasn’t always a resident here. I grew up not far away near West Hoosick, N.Y. As a child, my parents would bring me to parades, to shop at Mammoth Mart and eat at McDonald’s. Back then, I recall this town as being very patriotic, proud of it’s heritage.
Many years later, my wife and I decided to move here. Bennington always seemed like a pleasant, safe place and I was able to acquire employment through one of the local factories. There are still many quaint aspects of this town that I love, but time changes all things.
For many years, I made my profession in an industry where I was subjected to the horrors of what drugs like heroin could do to people. I watched it eat away at their souls. Heroin is highly addictive. It is a drug that warms, calms, and in many instances, makes you feel safe. Although I have never used, I have seen its effects.
Most people engage in drugs to feel better, escape. Sometimes, people have gone through painful pasts and try to self-medicate. Sometimes, it is peer pressure, curiosity, other times, boredom.
I even see it at work. People go into the restrooms, consume pills, sometimes crushing and snorting them. Other times they go into a stall and shoot up. They go to their cars with their friends, get high and return like it’s nothing.
We make important things at my job. Although we have quality assurance, I shudder to think that these addicts are making things that a family will use one day. I have mentioned it to my management, and asked someone to drug test them, and they say there is nothing they can do unless that employee breaks some kind of rule.
You can find them everywhere. They panhandle money or sell everything just keep that high going so they don’t become dope sick. Some of them leave from BROC and get a hotel room in town and go on binges. I have told some of the detectives about the scores that go on near my home that I witness. There is only so much they can do.
The New York Times ran a front page article about the heroin epidemic plaguing Bennington. How sad.
My question is, what is being done? Not just to help those already addicted, but to prevent those who haven’t tried it, not to go down that path? I know many of our youth claim that there is nothing to do here in Bennington, so they go online, play video games or party.
Girls here are now prostituting themselves for the money to use. Think about it -- this could be your daughter. So many times I have witnessed the situation where the parents live in a snow globe of illusion and think "not my kid" only to find their kid has been arrested, or even worse yet, killed because of on-going drug use and that is when they have to stare into the eyes of addiction. Sometimes when it is too late.
I fear soon enough, stronger heroin will slither it’s way into town and that is when we will begin seeing the deaths of our kids in high numbers. Check out The National Institute on Drug Abuse numbers. Did you know that 0.50 percent of eighth graders have tried heroin in the past year? In the past three years, fatal overdoses have more than doubled. As pills become more difficult and expensive to acquire, the local heroin dealer is there for a cheap, easy high. They are selling in the schools, at jobs, even at N.A. meetings.
Bennington needs to wake up before our youth is suffocated by this vile drug.
Do I have the answers to this problem? No. But I hope with all of the local businesses and parents who really are concerned, we can come up with a solution. Is it more convenient to turn away? If we look the other way and not truly address the problem will it leave? If we don’t reach out soon, we will be looking upon the graves of our loved ones wishing we had.
Let us all pitch in and make this town again, the proud one it was. Where we are written of for not overlooking our problems, but by confronting them and doing what we must to take back what we once had. Pride.
M. Rogers is a Bennington resident.