Mary DiAntonio stood quietly a few feet from the rows of pictures taped to a wall in the portico of the City-County Building on Thursday. There were dozens of pictures. Each showed a smiling face, a name and a date. “Marissa Straight, 4-4-2017,” for example. “Jared N. Young, 7-16-2021,” “Tammy Langhoff, 8-7-2016.” On and on.
A man walked past Mary and began examining the pictures. He carried a camera.
After a moment, she asked, “Can you take a picture of my son?”
She stepped forward and placed her hand on a photograph of a young man wearing a backward baseball cap and a white T-shirt. “Angelo DiAntonio, 11-6-2020.”
“He was the best person I ever met,” Mary said. “My best friend. He tried. He battled addiction for 15 years, ever since he was 16.”
She pulled a hand-written note from her purse.
“He wrote this to me,” she said, “back in 2018.”
The note read:
Dear Mom, Every time you read this I want you to remember how sorry I am for all that I’ve done and everyday I wake up and hope one day I can make you proud and be the son that you’ve always deserved …. You’ve always been my biggest allie, supporter and best friend!
I love you with every fiber of my being.
Love you Mama Bear … your son & cub!
Angelo was 32 when he died. He overdosed on Xanax and fentanyl.
“He tried methadone; he tried suboxone,” she said. “He was in NA [Narcotics Anonymous] for years. It’s not like he didn’t try.”
She placed her hand over his picture. “It’s been almost three years,” she said. “I don’t know, it still feels like yesterday. Look at those eyes.
“I want the world to know the person he was — he was not defined by the drugs. He was a good human being. I came down here to honor him. Let the world know he was the best son in the world.”
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The photographs are gathered and displayed by an organization called Pittsburgh Won’t Forget U, which was launched in 2017 by Jeanna Fisher, whose daughter Marley died of an overdose that year. Thursday’s display was part of a resource fair coinciding with International Overdose Awareness Day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 109,680 people in the U.S. died of drug overdose in 2022. That’s a new record.
Many, like Angelo and Marley, struggled for years with addiction.
“Nothing has changed,” Fisher said. “It’s still nearly impossible to get into an extended recovery program, anything past 28 days.”