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24-year-old dies in car accident

Aaron Williams, 24, was killed in a single-car accident Wednesday, Oct. 21 when his vehicle went off the left side of the road, struck a tree and overturned several times, Trooper T.W. Reeves said.

Some might remember Williams as a three-sport athlete at Kenston Forest High School; as a rabid Virginia Tech football fan and Duke Basketball fan; a fan of New York Yankees and Miami Dolphins.

But he was so much more, said his parents, Norma and Gerald “Jerry” Williams. He was, they said, a younger brother to their 28-year old son Sam, a compassionate person and devoted friend who was loved and will be missed.

Williams’ parents said that while they don’t believe drugs directly played a part in their son’s death, but they were probably why he was out at that hour, and had certainly become a major part of his life.

“I’m not ashamed of Aaron,” said his father, a retiree from Norfolk and Southern railroad. “He became an addict, and he fought it but he didn’t beat it.”

The couple hope that by acknowledging what their son went through they can raise awareness of how deep and pervasive the drug problem is – a problem that isn’t just national, but is painfully local.

They are grateful they live in a small town and the outpouring of support has been touching, Mrs. Williams said. “We have visitors and people send cards; they bring food. There has been so much (kindness) that we really appreciate.”

But being in a rural area is part of the problem, she said. People think drug addiction is somewhere else, in big cities and sketchy neighborhoods. It’s not.

“It is much more widespread than people realize in this county, and nationwide,” Mrs. Williams said. “It’s a lot more prevalent than people think.”

It is a problem, they said, that needs to be destigmatized and treated like the illness it is, with more assistance given and less judgment.

In some ways, Mrs. Williams said, drug addiction is worse than cancer. People accept cancer as an illness. Many people dismiss addicts as somehow bringing it on themselves and being unwilling to stop.

“It’s a sickness as well as any,” she said. “It changes the person. He was ashamed. He hated himself. He just couldn’t stop. I feel that God delivered him. That God showed His mercy. Aaron was spared being crippled; incapacitated. It would have been hard for him to live with himself if he had harmed other people.”

They hoped that Aaron would not get arrested, killed, overdose, or harm someone else, Mrs. Williams said. But there were times she thought that maybe prison would have been the best thing for him. Then again, she said, people “can learn some negative things in a prison.”

Williams recalled that his son once told him that young people didn’t do cocaine. They took pills.

“They’re in your medical cabinet,” Williams noted.

Growing up, Aaron may have smoked marijuana like many other kids, and drank alcohol, Jerry Williams said. But the family traces his use of opiates to his senior year in high school when he suffered an ankle injury celebrating after a baseball game. A prescription after he had his wisdom teeth removed may have also played a part. Not that the family is blaming anyone or any institution.

Maybe, Jerry and Norma Williams said, instead of just writing a prescription if doctors were obligated to sit patients down and walk them through the dangers of the prescription drugs they are about to take; about how addictive they can be, what that addiction can look like and where it can lead. It might not stop someone from becoming an addict, but, then again, it might; and maybe stricter monitoring of prescription quantities and availability to young people.

“We wanted it to turn around,” Jerry Williams said.

Sometimes, it looked like it would turn around. But it never lasted.

Maybe, they said, had there been more support.  He went to rehab, and it would have helped had he been able to go to a halfway house afterward. But the family couldn’t afford it.

“That would have been the best solution,” said Mrs. Williams, a nurse. “(But) they’re so expensive.”

Mrs. Williams said one of the things he son took pride in was a conversation he once had with an older man who had started taking pain killers. The man came back and thanked Aaron, noting that he was the only person who had warned him about the dangers of addiction.

“We miss him,” Mrs. Williams said. “We feel that he’s at peace. I feel that Aaron is free. … We had him longer than some people have their children.”