Guests on Saturday paint the names of people lost to addiction on a plane.
Guests on Saturday paint the names of people lost to addiction on a plane during an event — ‘Look Up & Speak Their Names’ — at the Santa Barbara Airport. (Jessica Reincke / Noozhawk photo)

Members of the community gathered at Signature Flight Support’s hanger at the Santa Barbara Airport on Saturday as visitors went up and shared their stories about how addiction took a loved one from their lives.

Many struggled to fight back tears, while others could not hold back, as the stories were told.

Each testimony included a call for some form of change in how addiction is addressed.

One by one, the speakers made their way to a bell that they  rang it in remembrance of their loved ones. 

SafeLaunch and Signature Flight Support hosted their first international overdose awareness day event, which they called “Look Up & Speak Their Names.”

During this event people were invited to come in and remember the loved ones they have lost to an overdose by saying their names and their stories out loud.  

Purple and gold ribbons hung from the wings of a small plane set up in the middle of the hanger, and each one had the name of someone who overdosed and how old they were when they passed away.

Guests were also invited to step up and paint the name of the person they were remembering on the plane using purple paint.  

Pictures of overdose victims were placed throughout the room, both on chairs surrounding the plane with purple ribbons, and on a poster board with the words “the wind beneath our wings” placed above. 

Everyone was included in being welcomed to the microphone to speak about how addiction affected them and any loved ones in their lives.

Ali Cortes, executive director of A Different Point of View, which is an organization that aids underserved youth, shared her story with the group about losing her cousin and a student to addiction.  

“Events like this are important because when we see incidents one at a time, we don’t see the impact. When we see the photos, emotions, and stories all together, we see [addiction] doesn’t discriminate,” Cortes said. 

Matt Long, Signature Flight Support general manager, who lost his brother to addiction, also shared his thoughts.

“I don’t go a day where I don’t talk to someone affected by this,” he said. “It’s scary how many people are affected by this issue.”   

Guest Jennifer Martinez, who lost her godbrother to addiction, said that events like this are important because they help parents grieve the loss of their children.

Event organizer Janet Rowse expressed this as well: “We hope to give parents who have lost children to alcohol and other drugs an opportunity to speak their child’s name, honor their memory, and most importantly, give their child’s short life meaning.” 

For more information about SafeLaunch and their efforts to stop addiction, visit their website.

Noozhawk intern Jessica Reincke can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.