Feb. 21, 2022 – There were pre-announcements that something big was coming. Wondering what it was got everyone’s curiosity. I did not know the guys who brought it in. The one I saw was supposedly a relative of a friend of my older brother and someone I knew, but he was five or six years older than me. He lived in the Phipps Houses.

For the first couple of weeks it was given away for free. Then there was a $2-per-bag cost. It hit hard. When I say it hit hard it was actually very hard. The drug was plentiful and the cost was cheap. I started sniffing heroin in late 1964 and started shooting it in mid 1965 all while still in high school. My older brother began using in 1964 before me.  Prior to this onslaught there were about 10 older guys using heroin and the projects were still very safe. The users went outside of the projects to get their money via crime. The projects were so safe that in my building we could sleep at night with the door cracked for ventilation because there were no air conditioners. With the increased number of [heroin] users the environment began to change and the neighborhood slowly but surely became completely unsafe over the next two years.  Along with friends disappearing in jail or prison there were also deaths by overdose. It was not odd to see someone on a bench in the projects dead by overdose. It became a fact of life. At the time I thought I was invincible and these deaths although sad, were simply accepted.

In my family my older brother was the first to succumb. He was my role model and the person I looked up to in life. We shared a room and his descent into heroin shattered me and my parents. Things would never be the same. My parents had no idea how to combat heroin and eventually my older brother was lost. He survived until 1992 when HIV took him. My baby brother also ended up losing his life to drugs. He lived until 2000 when he also died from AIDS. Neither of them made it to 50 years old.


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