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Tag Archives: feature story
This piece was written by me and published last week in The Windham Independent News.
I’m primarily a news photographer. I’m also a news writer and reporter. Every once in a while I report on a story I believe so important to the pubic it needs to be shared. This is one of them.
Statehouse Rally Saturday October 18th Following Sharp Increase in Heroin OD Deaths
Susan and Tom Markievitz’s son Chad began using heroin in the fall of 2013. He died from a heroin overdose on July 28, 2014. He had just turned 25 years old.
According to Mrs. Markievitz, Chad had a normal early childhood. He enjoyed four-wheeling, fishing and sports. “Everyone loved him. He was very respectful,” she said.
Chad’s problems started shortly before attending Salem High School. Once in high school Chad found challenges and opportunity. His path to addiction is a common one. It began with prescription medication and progressed to alcohol and cocaine. The first time his parents intervened Chad was 16 years old. He spent 35 days enrolled in an Outward Bound troubled teens program in El Paso, Texas.
Rehabilitation was successful for a time. “He had his good times, his bad times. He’d be sober and straight for months then relapse. Every time he relapsed it got worse and worse,” his mother said.
Ultimately Chad could not break away from the addiction. He wrote in his journal that it was a real struggle. “He called it his demon,” his mother said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationally, death rates from prescription opioid pain reliever (OPR) overdoses quadrupled during 1999–2010 and the death rate from heroin overdose doubled from 2010 to 2012 (in the 28 states participating in the reporting, including NH).
The Windham Fire Department has administered the opioid antidote Narcan 13 times since the beginning of 2014. As stated by Lieutenant Jay Moltenbrey, pin point pupils and decreased respiratory drive are clear signs of an opioid overdose.
What makes heroin in particular so dangerous and easy to overdose on is its dosage inconsistencies. Regulated prescription opioids’, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, dosages are reliable. Heroin is not regulated and is obtained exclusively through illicit channels. For this reason addicts tend to buy heroin from the same person. If anything in that supply chain changes, the potency could be completely different from what the user typically uses. There is simply no way to know what the concentration is or what it’s cut with.
Mrs. Markievitz describes the warning signs as numerous. She found Chad nodding off, rambling endlessly, slurring words and he had sudden bouts of singing and dancing. Spoons went missing and she found little cotton wads around the house. Eventually household items began to disappear.
She believes one of the most important things a parent can do is monitor their child’s phone and document the phone numbers they are interacting with. Addicts often have sneaky phone calls and texts and use their own lingo that is impossible for the uninitiated to decipher. She urges any parent that finds drugs or contraband to call the police department.
While the police department is obligated to arrest anyone caught with possession, they are primarily interested in arresting those who are distributing the drug. “The dealers we want to take down and the users we want to get help,” said Windham Police Captain Caron.
“It’s illegal to possess narcotics. It’s illegal to sell them and illegal to be in possession of paraphernalia. We can and do arrest users and dealers for those things. But we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. As a society we need to put just as much focus on the root causes for the addictive behavior as we do on enforcing the law,” said Windham Police Chief Gerry Lewis.
Captain Caron admits that by the time relatives notify the police, “they are at the point of hopelessness. They don’t want them to go to jail but they don’t want them to die. With long term heroin usage, death is a foregone conclusion. It’s a demon. It’s an ugly demon.”
Chief Lewis believes early intervention is essential. “It is critically important that loved ones address the issue with the addict as soon as it becomes known they are using drugs. The longer the person uses drugs the harder it becomes to remedy.”
Both Chief Lewis and Captain Caron stress the impact addiction has on the overall public, ranging from impacting health and human resources, burglaries and associated crime and depleting local service budgets such as schools and emergency response.
“Just because it’s not in your family doesn’t mean you’re not affected by it. It affects all of society in one way or another,” said Captain Caron.
Following the death of her son Chad, Mrs. Markievitz is reaching out to anyone affected by addiction. She is the administrator of the NH chapter of The Addict’s Mom, a volunteer support group for mother’s of addicted children. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please see their website for more information www.addictsmom.com
The Hope for NH Recovery; We Believe in Recovery rally will be held at the statehouse (107 North Main Street, Concord) this Saturday, October 18th from 11AM- 2PM. NH Governor Maggie Hassan and US Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen will be speaking on the issue. The public is encouraged to attend.
NH News Photographer
Windham Middle School SMILES Club students joined the Pease Greeters on April 22nd. The festive event welcomed United States Marine Corps soldiers returning from Afghanistan. This was the first time the soldiers have been on American soil since last fall. Notable attendees included Miss New Hampshire, Miss New Hampshire Teen and Patriots representatives including their mascot, 2 cheerleaders, former players Jon Williams and Vernon Crawford and former broadcaster Gino Cappelletti.
American troops exited the aircraft transporting them to the United States from Afghanistan via Iceland were met at the gate by hundreds of cheering Greeters and well-wishers. The Greeters, from toddlers to decorated World War II veterans, met the troops with hugs, handshakes and smiles, while animal Greeters gave face licks and tail wags. Each of the troops made their way into the terminal via the “Heroes Walk”, part of the military museum housed at the airport in conjunction with the Pease Development Authority, the only such installment at a commercial airport in the country.
Once inside the terminal, the Greeters provided the troops with food, beverages, gifts, stuffed animals, camaraderie and companionship, all donated by local companies, private donors and the Greeters themselves. There is a permanent communications center and the troops are given cell phones to call anyone in the world free of charge.
Prior to departure the troops stopped at the U.S. Customs area for a brief ceremony, as they do prior to every flight. The veterans raised the flag and Miss New Hampshire sang the National Anthem; Everyone said the Pledge of Allegiance; A prayer was given thanking the troops and their families for their sacrifices. A star cut from a retired American flag was given to each troop.
The Pease Greeters is an all volunteer group of veterans and civilians dedicated to showing their appreciation for troops from all nations and military branches. They meet every troop flight, whether 2 A.M. on a Monday morning or 5 P.M. on a Saturday afternoon. New Greeters are always warmly welcomed. If you would like to donate or participate, please visit their website at www.peasegreeters.org
Southern NH news photographer
About 3 weeks ago I came home from photographing these dogs and told my husband that I have a new boyfriend. His name is Bryce and he’s 5. He’s the darker and slightly smaller of the 2 males.
Here is the article and images as they appeared in the paper. It is reprinted here with permission from The Windham Independent News. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.
Firefighter CJ Lundergan Rescues Pit Bull Dogs
It’s a dog’s life at Windham firefighter CJ Lundergan and his wife Colleen’s house. In fact it’s a three dog, three cat and two turtle life and they all get along beautifully with each other and with their humans. Four year old Holley doesn’t look how one would typically think a pit bull is supposed to look. She just looks like a dog. While unsure of the father’s breed(s), Holley’s maternal heritage is 100% pit bull. The couple adopted Holley as a baby and thus began a love affair with pit bulls. Byron joined the family a year later also as a baby from an unexpected litter.
Five year old Bryce was rescued last year by a Manchester police officer attending to an unrelated matter who notified animal control when he spotted the dog. He was missing 80% of his body hair due to long-term untreated mange and he had severe food allergies.
His owner agreed to surrender the dog if he was not prosecuted. This arrangement is not uncommon depending on the severity of the abuse or neglect. Bryce recovered at the Manchester Animal Shelter under veterinary care for a month before the doctor released him to be fostered by CJ and Colleen. He has proven himself to be a wonderful addition to their home so when he was healed and ready for adoption, the couple decided to adopt him.
The term pit bull is one of the most controversial domestic animal topics. Contrary to popular belief a pit bull is not a breed but a label given to American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and dogs mixed with those breeds. A Google™ search for “pit bull” produces first page results ranging from “Pitbulls are murderers, aggressive killing machine” to “Hero Pit Bull Dog Saves Woman From Being Hit By A Train”. Google™ image search results are varied as well ranging from pit bull portraits and candids of happy dogs and their people to horrifying images of the dogs tortured by humans and images of people wounded by dogs.
Any dog is capable of being aggressive and will bite if provoked. A poorly trained and socialized pit bull does have a tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs but socialization eliminates the trait.
Dog aggression and bite statistics are as varied as opinions about pit bulls. Many are contradictory, further fueling the controversy. Statistically the pit bull has reportedly been the top offender for fatal bites in the United States from 1979 and 1998 causing 76 human deaths compared to 44 Rottweiler attributed deaths and 27 deaths caused by German Shepherds. The CDC report, published September 15th, 2000, is based in part on eyewitness breed identification.
Historically the pit bull is one of the least aggressive towards humans. The American Temperament Test Society tests behaviors and reactions exhibited by dogs of all breeds. Their statistics show the American Pit Bull Terrier has a pass rate of 86.8%. American Staffordshire’s pass rate is 84.2%, both a similar pass rate than a Golden Retriever at 85.2%, long known as a safe family dog. Conversely a Bearded Collie passes only 54.3% of the time, and a Chihuahua has a 68.3% pass rate.
The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports the German Shepherd and Doberman as the primary biting breeds by a large margin, “Bites from German shepherds and Dobermans accounted for 37% of all dog bites despite that these breeds account for only 13.1% of the dog population. The relative risk for a dog attack by a German shepherd or a Doberman was ~5 times higher than that of a Labrador/ retriever or cross-breed.”
Many blame the media for perpetuating negative pit bull fallacies through provocative sound bites and over-reporting incidents with the term pit bull in it. Whoever is to blame is irrelevant to the pit bulls, the most misunderstood and mistreated group of canines in recent history.
If they are fortunate enough to not be euthanized immediately, the majority of them languish in shelters for months, some for years. According to Petfinder, the largest database of adoptable animals in the country, “In one out of four shelters, pits and pit mixes make up more than 20 percent of their shelter dog population.”
There are currently 22 dogs at the Manchester Animal Shelter, 16 of which are pit bulls. The MSPCA’s Nevin’s Farm in Methuen currently shows 25 adoptable dogs, 11 of which are pit bulls.
Shelters across the country struggle to find pit bulls their forever homes, in part due to public perception. Potential dog parents willing to adopt find it challenging to do so, compounding the problem. In some towns, cities and counties pit bulls and pit bull mixes have been outlawed altogether. This is part of what is called Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Many insurance companies across the country refuse to issue homeowner’s insurance to those owning a pit bull.
The plight of pit bulls has received national and international attention through outreach and rescue programs as well as popular reality television shows. Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees documents the lives of pit bull rescuers and trainers, many of whom are parolees, as they rescue abused and abandoned dogs. Pit Boss, also on Animal Planet, shows the lives of little people and their talent agency as they rescue pit bulls and raise community awareness. Perhaps the best known show featuring pit bulls is National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer which follows Cesar Millan as he helps people be more effective dog owners. Cesar’s own pit bull Daddy was a frequent guest on the show as he helped rehabilitate troubled dogs until his passing in 2010. His role was filled with Junior, a younger pit bull adopted by the legendary dog trainer.
Despite all the controversy those who love pit bulls really, really love pit bulls. Pit bulls are fantastic family pets when properly trained and socialized. They are intelligent, loyal, athletic, and playful. Many claim they have a great sense of humor. Current or former pit bull owners include Rachel Ray, Jon Stewart, Jamie Foxx, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, General George S. Patton, Jennifer Aniston, even Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen.
Both CJ and Colleen volunteer at the Manchester Animal Shelter. They have fostered fourteen dogs. Holley, Byron and Bryce are certified Canine Good Citizens® through the American Kennel Club. Their newest addition Bryce, having endured so much pain, may even become a therapy dog in the near future. CJ and Colleen are investigating programs related to hospital visitations and children’s reading programs.
Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter are having a fundraiser at Margarita’s in Manchester on Wednesday, November 7th from 4-10 P.M. Margarita’s will donate 15% of your bill to the Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter to help cats, dogs and other animals.
Southern NH news photographer
President Obama visited Windham, N.H. on August 18th, 2012. I was part of the White House Press Pool. I have
shot photographed (I have been advised not use to use the term shot in this context) White House staff, cabinet members, foreign heads of state, church leaders and Facebook founders on assignment for an Ivy league university and lots of congressmen/ women, senators and presidential candidates for the paper but I never imagined photographing a sitting president in the small town I cover.
Here are a few of the images I took that day and the published story I wrote about preparations and local reaction. I had to wait until my 10 day exclusivity period with the paper expired before I could post.
I will post images not submitted for publication later, particularly the helicopter images which really are pretty cool.
Preparation Activities and Local Response to President Obama’s Speech
More than two hundred volunteers and staffers spent five days attending to every detail preparing for President Obama’s twenty-nine minute speech at Windham High School. Guests began arriving on Saturday morning at 8:30. Some walked up London Bridge Road from Route 111. Most took one of the shuttle buses from Golden Brook School or Windham Center School. Three words seemed to be spoken everywhere: Amazing, Unbelievable. Wow.
The Presidential visit was exciting for both residents and local politicians, regardless of political affiliations.
Obama’s Saturday speech is the second time Representative Mary Griffin (R) has attended a speech given by a sitting President. The first was President Clinton in his 1996 visit to Salem High School. She said, “Protocol dictates to me that if the President visits your town you go to see him out of respect. I may not agree with all his philosophy but he’s an excellent speaker with tremendous charisma. I’m not going to disagree with someone just because they are a Democrat.”
Representative Griffin, a Romney supporter, continued, “I’m against Obamacare but I am concerned about Paul Ryan and Medicare. I’ve got to look out for our seniors.”
She shared a story about a good friend of hers, a ninety-two year old woman with limited income residing in a managed care facility locally. Her inhaler medication recently doubled in cost from forty to eighty dollars due to what seniors refer to as “the donut hole”, Medicare Part D requirements. Often seniors are unable to afford required medications and any additional increase in costs are impossible for seniors to absorb.
Representative Walter Kolodziej (R) has a “high respect for the President of the United States and he visited our town so I went to pay my respects towards the office.” He agrees with Representative Griffin about Medicare being a critical topic. “Medicare needs modifications because it is not sustainable. No politician is going to do away with Medicare but it isn’t sustainable in its current form,” he said.
Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia (D) sat in the bleachers just behind the President. She said, “It was a wonderful experience to see a sitting President in such a charged and positive environment at our high school. When he smiles he just lights up the room. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our new high school and welcome the President to our little town. And everyone was so courteous. It speaks well for our town. I was also happy to see so many children. The students responsible for distributing water to guests handled it with such grace and dignity.”
The President’s visit would not be possible without the support of local officials and town and school administrations. The President acknowledged this valuable support following his speech with face to face greetings, personally thanking participants for their efforts on his behalf.
Doors opened to the public at 10:30 after security sweeps were completed. More than twenty-two hundred people waited in the sweltering gymnasium until the President began his speech at 1:07 P.M.
Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson reported that twenty people were treated for heat-related issues. Eighteen were treated onsite and two were transported to the hospital where they were treated and released. “Considering the temperature and the number of people inside, twenty people treated is pretty good for the conditions we were dealing with,” he said.
The extreme heat was caused by a number of factors: the volume of people, the television and production lights and the need to keep the building closed for security purposes. A firm was contracted to bring in industrial air conditioners, which were set in place by Friday. Chief McPherson believes the units were struck by lightning overnight during the thunderstorms, rendering them inoperable. While crews were able to get one of the units partially functioning, it was not enough for the tremendous heat generated by the lights and number of people.
Logistics inside the gym during the event required creative solutions. “Due to the number of people wanting to see the President, it was tough to control the crowd to allow EMTs clear access. We made the decision to place the EMTs inside the gym, staged in different areas. The Secret Service worked with us to help clear aisle ways. That was a challenge. There were many more people than staff,” said Chief McPherson.
The Chief noted the Secret Service was very good to work with, both during the event and the throughout the preparation process.
Chief McPherson, Windham Police Captain Caron and Windham High School Assistant Principal Bob Dawson worked together with White House and campaign staff and the Secret Service to ensure a safe environment for visitors as well as the President. Chief McPherson and Captain Caron received a phone call on Monday morning to inform them of the President’s visit while White House and campaign staff greeted Assistant Principal Dawson in person, followed by a half dozen or so Secret Service agents.
News of Windham High School as the President’s choice for this campaign stop was not a complete surprise for Assistant Principal Dawson. ” New Hampshire is a very political state. We’ve had a number of political events since opening. I knew it was not out of the realm of possibility. The school is also very isolated, good for security purposes,” he said.
“It’s been such a whirlwind, an incredibly busy week,” Mr. Dawson said. He was impressed with how quickly and smoothly vendors responded and acted on requests for assistance. He noted Fairpoint’s quick response to a big job and an unusual request to run lines across vast distances to enable communications. “They understand the importance of getting things done quickly and well,” he said.
Being a school administrator just before the start of the school year is hectic enough but a Presidential visit adds unusual items to your “to-do” list, such as coordinating student sporting practices with the Secret Service to allow Presidential choppers and the massive Chinook helicopters an opportunity to practice takeoffs and landings. “Bill Raycraft was incredible rearranging schedules and team meetup spots for out of town student events,” said Mr. Dawson.
The Secret Service did accommodate the students’ schedules as best they could to allow regular school activities. Even with a Presidential visit, there is still the business of running a high school.
“I don’t think people know or appreciate how much goes into preparing for a Presidential visit,” said Windham High School Principal Tom Murphy.
Mr. Murphy, School Department Superintendent Henry LaBranche and School Board Chair Bruce Anderson greeted the President as he arrived via motorcade. The four men conversed about Windham’s outstanding dropout and graduation statistics among other educational topics. “It was a great moment, having a nice conversation with the President. Regardless of politics, he is the Commander in Chief. To converse with him for five minutes is pretty incredible. Great politicians are the ones that make you feel you are connecting with them. He’s fully there in the moment you’re talking with him. This is definitely one of the highlights of my career,” said Mr. Murphy.
The Windham Police Department worked closely with the Secret Service all week to ensure a smooth visit for all parties involved. One of the requirements was procuring and placing vast numbers of buses used to secure the boundaries for the helicopters and the motorcade, all of which were provided by First Student.
Captain Caron reported the Police Department escorted two people off the premises that were becoming frustrated with the long wait in the heat. There was a small contingent of Romney supporters, all of whom were well behaved. There were no arrests. He said, “This was a pretty big production. It went flawlessly, couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Everyone from the Secret Service to White House and campaign staff to the locals are very pleased with how it went. I think we represented Windham very well.”
Chief McPherson said, “Everyone did a knockout job from the bottom up to see this event went without a hitch. Some may not respect the person or the politics but he is the sitting President and that is quite prestigious. As far as public safety is concerned officials don’t care if it’s a Democrat or Republication. Either way, it’s our job to make sure both residents and visitors are safe while they are here and safe when they go.”
“As a school we are not political. This town made a commitment to build a high school. We’ve been fortunate enough to host our Governor, the former Speaker of the House and United States Senators in our short existence. That we have actually hosted a sitting President of the United States is something to be proud of. We needed to do whatever we could to make sure they had a good impression of the school when they left and they did,” said Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Dawson said, “Everybody I spoke to from the White House to the Secret Service to the guests were thrilled. Heat was a factor. There was nothing we could do about that. Everybody was super happy. For me, I was pleased it went so well. For the people that wanted to come to see the President of the United States, this is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. For most people, this may never happen again.”
Mr. Dawson was part of a small group of people that was summoned to meet the President face to face following his speech. That group included eleven year-old National Anthem singer Emma Joanis and her parents and Maintenance Director Jeff Couture, who worked closely all week with the Secret Service, providing any help they needed. The President personally thanked Mr. Couture for everything he’d done, telling him he greatly appreciated it. Each was photographed with the President. “It’s one of those things you’ll never forget. It’s pretty phenomenal,” said Mr. Dawson.