Jessie Grieb lost her brother four years ago, June 15. He was yet another casualty of the nation’s opioid crisis.
Her boyfriend died from heroin use. And she, too, has struggled with addiction since she was 17.
So Grieb decided to walk 2,575 miles along the East Coast, ending up Friday at the southernmost tip of the continental United States — Key West — in tribute of those who have died from opioid abuse and as a way to raise awareness to those who suffer from addiction.
She made it to Key West on the anniversary date of her brother’s death.
“Every mile that I walked, two people in this country will die from overdose,” she said. “Last year we lost over 72,000 people, which is more than the Vietnam war itself.”
Greib, 26, of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, said, “It’s getting up to over 100, almost 200, people every day that are dying from this.”
Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose
Grieb started the long walk in Fort Kent, Maine, on July 28, 2018, after she had suffered a relapse.
When she arrived at the Southernmost Point buoy at the water’s edge in Key West, Mayor Teri Johnston presented her with a key to the city. Supporters met her with banners bearing the photos of nearly 500 people who have overdosed.
“I just hope this can inspire people, you know, that are dealing with addiction and grief,” Grieb said. “I’ve been struggling with both of those things for years now, and it’s just a matter of not giving up and keep pushing forward.”
Throughout her journey, Greib camped in parks and on bike trails. Sometimes she stayed overnight in police and fire stations or with friends and supporters of her effort.
To help carry supplies, Grieb towed a small cart named “Lieutenant Dan” in honor of the “Forrest Gump” character who dealt with addiction.. The cart also carried Dakota, a dog she adopted in South Carolina.
For the final mile a group that joined Grieb included her mother, Penny Grieb of South Carolina, and friends who held the banners, reported The Palm Beach Post. In 2016, the Post chronicled the Grieb family’s struggle with opiods.
Grieb told the Post she was considering suicide when she decided to take the marathon walk, having been inspired by a friend who did the same trek to honor his sister, who died of an overdose.
“I did it!” an emotional Greib said as she posed for pictures by the Southernmost Point buoy, her hands in the air.