What Good Looks Like

In the quiet glow of the afternoon sun, beneath the watchful gaze of a world going by, there stands an offering of resolve, a tableau of sorrow intertwined with unwavering dedication. This is a story etched in the creases of faces that have known loss, in the clasped hands of those who refuse to let despair have the last word. This is a story of commitment, of a photograph that speaks a thousand words.

Article by Jeff Fabré, March 4, 2024.

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From left to right: Michele Hein, Paul Ostrow, and Michelle Loberg.

In the frame, three souls stand united by a grief that has carved rivers through their hearts. Two mothers, Michele Hein and Michelle Loberg, guardians of memory, keepers of lost dreams. And a man, Paul Ostrow, a retired criminal prosecutor whose battles in the courtroom have now found a different, though no less formidable, arena. They are warriors in a fight they did not choose but was thrust upon them by a tragedy that has left a void where joy and laughter once lived.

Their battlefield is any corner of the public square willing to lend them an ear, any place they can set up a card table, drape it in a cloth that has known both tears and determination, and unfurl a banner that speaks of a mission too critical to ignore. The table is an altar of sorts, laden with pamphlets and Narcan packets, offerings to passersby in the hope that knowledge might shield others from the devastating force of fentanyl.

Tripods cradle photographs of loved lives lost, windows into souls taken too soon by fentanyl’s merciless grip. Each face tells the story of a life cut tragically short. These are the children of Michele and Michelle, and others too, whose deaths have sparked a relentless pursuit of change.

Day in and day out, Michele, Michelle, and Paul stand vigilant, their presence a manifestation of love that transcends the physical realm. What drives a person to this kind of volunteer work, to forgo the quiet retreat into years meant for rest and reflection? Fentanyl has shattered any illusion of peace for them, demanding action in the face of overwhelming loss.

Why, one might ask, would anyone lace counterfeit pills with a lethal substance like fentanyl, fashioning death in the guise of relief or escape? Is it merely the cold calculus of profit, or does the abyss gaze back, a deeper darkness lurking in the hearts of those who traffic in despair? To create a counterfeit is to deal in deception, but when that deceit steals lives, it becomes an act of war against the very fabric of community.

Against this backdrop of anguish emerges a force of equal and opposite conviction. Michele Hein and Michelle Loberg, along with Paul Ostrow, have transformed their grief into hope. Together, they have established the Fentanyl Free Communities Foundation. Their mission is clear: to save lives whenever and wherever they can. Paul chairs their sister organization, the Fentanyl Free Communities Policy Board, which targets the crisis at the legislative level.

A growing circle comprising angel parents, retired public safety officials, and citizen activists are pooling their resources, time, and energy. Together, they demonstrate that love, true and steadfast, can make a difference. They give of themselves because they know from painful experience that the cost of inaction is too great. They stand firm against the merchants of death. They confront the dark specter of fentanyl with the light of awareness.

‘One pill can kill,’ they warn all too truthfully. It is a clarion call to vigilance in an age when danger masquerades itself in the mundane.

This story, poetic in its pain and power, is a narrative of resilience, of individuals who, in the face of the unfathomable, choose to stand and fight. It is a testament that even in our darkest moments, humanity’s capacity for love, for selflessness, for the pursuit of a world free from such sorrow shines bright. This is what good looks like.

The Fentanyl Free Communities Foundation highlights content related to the Fentanyl crisis. We are sharing these stories as part of our educational efforts. We are committed to raising awareness and positively impacting the fight against fentanyl poisoning in our communities.

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