INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — James Carr says the ideas came to him in a dream: the red crosses. The needles. The names of those who died.
They are all now a reality along Woodlawn and Rural Streets in Fountain Square, Indiana, just outside of a small church run by Carr’s brother. It’s here where Carr hopes to raise awareness about Indiana’s deadly struggle with heroin.
“I’ve got nephews and nieces on it. I lost one nephew. And I’ve heard hundreds of stories. It’s heartbreaking,” Carr told Media General contributors during an interview. “I got a lot of grandkids and I do not want to see my grandkids on any of this.”
Carr came up with another idea – dress like death.
For the past two months, Carr has dressed up as the Grim Reaper, carried a large red cross, and stood near several prominent Indianapolis intersections.
“I do get a few people that have a few smart things to say but the majority of people are really nice and understanding,” Carr said. “It doesn’t deter me one bit.”
Carr has also created a Facebook page entitled “Cross Out Heroin Campaign.” The page has more than 200 members and has become a listening post for others struggling with addiction. Carr also posts pictures there of his various appearances at Indianapolis intersections.
“For some reason it just seems to give them relief. I can’t explain it,” Carr said. “A lot of people will open up to you about it. I’ve heard so many stories. I’ve shed so many tears.”
Last year, 126 people died in Marion County from drug overdoses, according to data compiled by the coroner’s office. That figure was down from 223 in 2014, which is likely due in part to increased use of NARCAN, an antidote used by first responders to reverse the effects of a drug overdose.
Carr plans to take his efforts to this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, where he hopes to sway some hearts and minds.
“That’s what I am out here for. I want these kids to know, maybe some time they start to do it they remember the old Grim Reaper and not do it,” Carr said.