BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- 2016 was a traumatic year for Katrina Kemp. The Buffalo mother of five lost most of her children in the span of several months.
Her sons Marlon, Michael, and Myron all passed away from what Kemp calls senseless things.
“Michael died of a heroin overdose, which is a high epidemic here,” she said.
In January, she got the call to come and identify her middle son Michael, whom she calls “Jo Jo” by his tattoos.
“That’s the hardest thing. For you to assume my son is a John Doe.”
In June, her oldest son Marlon passed away.
“Marlon died in a correctional facility. He was complaining of chest pains for seven to ten days. The last day he complained he went and got a breathing treatment, 45 minutes after that he was being pulled out of there and going to the hospital, and he died.”
And a couple of mothers later, her youngest son Myron was shot and killed on Breckenridge & Grant Streets in Buffalo.
Like most superheroes, Kemp’s strength comes out of great loss. She sports a reminder of this on her wrist with the Superman logo underneath “M3,” for her her sons.
“I carry them here. So long as they’re here, they live every day,” Kemp said, holding her heart.
Friday, Kemp celebrated her birthday; it’s the first one without all of her boys.
“One day I’m going to be back where I just laugh continuously. I’m going to be me again. But right now, I’m me with three extra heartbeats in me, so it makes me stronger than the average person.”
It’s given her the strength to take action through the Mothers Against Heroin Addiction Color Me a Hero Foundation.
Kemp founded the group to help raise money and awareness for the disease that killed Michael.
Over the weekend, the foundation celebrated all three of her boys, their legacy, and the inspiration they’ve helped shape.
“I’d rather go through this world not carrying hatred. I’m angry at the boy who murdered my son, I’m angry at the guy who sold my son that fentanyl, all fentanyl product. But if I carry anger in my heart, it will make me an ugly person,” she told News 4.
Instead, Kemp said she tries to be a like a butterfly; it’s the symbol of her foundation, and a fitting one. With every heartache, she sheds away an old layer of herself, embracing something new.
The foundation raises scholarship money so the recipient can attend college.
It’s just in the beginning stages now, but Kemp is hopeful her efforts could be the difference between someone accomplishing their goals, and falling victim to circumstance.
There’s something else Kemp is driven by; the lives she’s still helping to mold, those of Michael and Myron’s children.
“As I go and I get through this each day, I want my grand children to know that they can be happy. That they can rise above any circumstances that come their way, and smile, and enjoy life.”