The tributes tell of young lives cut short by drug abuse and families left behind to wonder if they could have prevented tragedy. • They are written by mothers torn apart by grief and friends outraged at unscrupulous doctors who dole out prescription medications like Halloween candy. • The online Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education memorials — more than 200 and growing — offer glimpses into worlds rocked by addiction. • Many are from the Tampa Bay area, which has seen a surge in prescription drug overdose deaths in recent years. • Here are excerpts from the bay area. Rita Farlow, Times staff writer
"Matthew never thought he would die. Even though he attended funerals of many of his friends, he never thought prescription drugs would take his life. Our family will never be the same. The deep dark path of drug use and addiction has taken away our precious son, brother and friend. Matthew is loved and we look forward to one day seeing him again in heaven."
For Matthew Serra of Clearwater, who died Oct. 3, 2008, at the age of 28.
"...He touched the lives of all who knew him, always the brightest star in the sky. His young life taken by such a senseless drug, and I just don't understand why. My bright young man who had it all until these pills took over your life. How quickly things spiraled downhill eventually taking your young life. Now all I have is a memory of you. A painful heart that was once filled with such joy."
For David Sobek Jr. of Port Richey, who died March 14, 2008, at the age of 26.
"Our Paul was a soft-spoken, nice guy who always made people smile with his unique sense of humor. Unfortunately, OxyContin took over his life and was his ultimate downfall, even though he desperately wanted to end his addiction. The pain never goes away for his parents and brother who miss him every single day. This loss left a huge void in our lives."
For Paul Quinlan of Clearwater, who died July 4, 2007, at age 22.
"My son died of a oxycodone overdose. His struggle with prescription drugs is over and our struggles have begun. I miss my son so much that life seems unbearable."
For Richard Yaskolka of Largo, who died June 24, 2010, at age 31.
"I feel the good die young. I feel guilt (because) we used together. Also I feel selfish (because) it has kept me sober. He will be missed and never forgotten."
For Brian Wade of Tampa, who died Sept. 3, 2008, at age 24.
"OxyContin changed Brandon forever."
For Brandon Mannari of Redington Beach, who died Sept. 10, 2007, at age 37.
". . . Sad you had to die from such a thing as pain pills given to you by a . . . doctor . . . I will love you forever. I will keep your children from harm's way and will let them know you loved them so much you just did not know how to come back to them."
For Alissa Lopez of Clearwater, who died Nov. 22, 2009, at age 27.