BEVERLY — The death of an 18-year-old is sad by any measure, but Thursday’s funeral for Daniel Amor at the Second Congregational Church bore the weight of a wider tragedy striking down the state’s young people.
Amor, who died on Jan. 21, became the second student from Northshore Recovery High School to die from a heroin overdose this month.
The loss of Amor and Kelly Johnson, an 18-year-old from Andover who died on Jan. 3, marked the first two deaths in the seven-plus-year history of the Beverly-based school, one of three in the state for students with a history of substance abuse.
The deaths add to a grim total that officials have labeled an epidemic. Essex County had 145 suspected overdose deaths in 2014, up from 66 in 2013 and 23 in 2010, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. There have been 11 so far in January.
“It’s like a war, and it’s being fought on too many fronts,” said Michael Cooper, a Northshore Recovery School student who spoke at Amor’s funeral.
The loss of two students in a little more than two weeks has devastated the staff and students at the school. Principal Michelle Lipinski, who helped start the school in 2007, said there has been a “cultural shift” among younger people toward heroin use as an acceptable behavior.
“It’s not spoken of as such a taboo as it was five years ago,” she said, “and I can’t explain it.”
More than 100 people attended the service for Amor, a Beverly resident who was a student at Northshore Recovery School for three years. Friends and relatives described him as funny and full of life, but also as someone who struggled with depression and the constant battle against addiction.
Sierra Lamb, Amor’s cousin, called him “a free spirit who lived the way he wanted.”
“Some may look back and say he made some bad choices” Lamb said, “but which one of us haven’t?”
Robert Fabri, Amor’s grandfather, read from one of Amor’s school papers that Lipinski had given to him that morning. Amor, who was living with his grandparents, called his grandfather “my favorite person in the world” and said he was “always there when I need him.”
“I knew Daniel loved me,” said Fabri, a retired Beverly firefighter. “I didn’t know he loved me this much.”
After the service, Cooper, who has attended Northshore Recovery School for two-and-a-half years, said the best way to attack the heroin problem is to talk about it. With more attention being paid to the current epidemic, he said that is starting to happen.
“People used to be afraid to say, ‘I go to a recovery school,’” he said. “Now they’re more willing to tell people. People are starting to realize it’s a bigger problem than just making bad choices.”
Lipinski said 70 to 80 percent of the students at Northshore Recovery School are “dead sober” and have been in recovery for months or years. For all of the grief her staff is experiencing, she said, the deaths of Amor and Johnson have also strengthened their determination.
“It’s furthered their conviction to sticking this out and staying in this game,” she said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.