As soon as I pulled in, I knew something was off.
We had just arrived back in Culpeper a couple of hours earlier and I had stopped by a local grocery store to pick up the order I had placed the night before.
I pulled into the pickup area and immediately noticed a car sitting beside me, with no one in the driver’s seat.
I found it odd, and frankly it sent warning signals into my spine, but I quickly turned my attention to the gentleman bringing out my groceries. Still, something about that car was bothering me.
Soon, I noticed a group of store managers coming out and surrounding the car. Again, I found it odd.
After helping load my groceries, I hopped back in my car and took a closer look. Sure enough the driver’s seat was empty, but as I looked closer, I could make out a body in the passenger seat.
“That person’s dead,” I said out loud to myself, shocked that I hadn’t noticed it sooner. I quickly rolled down my window as I had already started backing out, and asked if someone needed me to call 911.
They already had, said the one manager, looking grimly down at the car.
What struck me is that no one helped, we all just looked.
I knew what had happened, this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence in the town. This was the heroin epidemic front and center, welcoming me into the new year.
It’s an odd feeling, knowing there’s nothing you can do. If you touch the person, who knows if you can prick yourself on whatever paraphernalia left behind (and I didn’t look closely enough to see how much or if any were still there). It’s an unsettling fact to be going to the grocery store and randomly run into a dead body.
To be clear, and I’ve asked for updates but have received none, if the person in the car is deceased or not. I’ve scoured the obits, and haven’t seen anyone matching the description of the person I saw. As with most overdose cases, I’ll assume they were revived by Narcan.
If they were, I hope they get help. If they or their family read this, know I’ve been praying for you.
I thought about keeping silent about my grisly discovery. I told a few of my friends and the ones in the medical field and law enforcement weren’t shocked. It’s a common occurrence. However, others were mortified that something like this happened in their town. They had no clue of the epidemic or how bad it was. I feel like I’ve dedicated a lot of ink to the epidemic and the efforts that prevention specialists and law enforcement have put forth against it. Yet, there are still people who aren’t aware of the consequences or the travesties left behind.
I know several families who have lost loved ones in the past year from overdoses. I’ve sat with grieving mothers, I’ve seen kids left without fathers and mothers. It breaks my heart.
So, I decided not to be silent about what I saw on New Year’s Day. It helps to talk about it, to let others know this is happening. If you know someone who needs help, take them to get it. Reach out, there are others who have been impacted.
Even if it’s just as simple as someone going to get their groceries.
Jeff Say is the editor of the Culpeper Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org