Mayor Barry speaks out about her son's death - WSMV Channel 4

Mayor Barry speaks out about her son's death

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Mayor Megan Barry's son, Max, died on July 29, (Source: Mayor's Office) Mayor Megan Barry's son, Max, died on July 29, (Source: Mayor's Office)
Mayor Megan Barry spoke to the media on Monday morning. (WSMV) Mayor Megan Barry spoke to the media on Monday morning. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry spoke to the media on Monday for the first time following the death of her son.

Nine days ago, 22-year-old Max Barry died from a drug overdose in Colorado.

The mayor spent her morning visiting several Metro schools for their first day of school, which brought back memories of her son.

"The first day of school in our household was always a joyous occasion," she said. "Max loved school."

The mayor said she would always take a picture of her son on the first day of school, which is a tradition he continued even when he went to college.

She addressed how hard everything has been for her family.

"This last nine days has been pretty ... I don't even have words," she said.

The mayor reiterated how thankful she is for everyone's support.

"I don't want his death to define his life, but we have to have a frank conversation about how he died," Barry said. "The reality is that Max overdosed on drugs. I don't know exactly what the combination of drugs was, but we do know, and we all know, that's what caused him to die."

The mayor said she is still waiting on the autopsy report and the toxicology report.

She said her son had occasional brushes with drug issues and spent a month in a rehabilitation center last year. He returned to school for his senior year at the University of Puget Sound and graduated this summer.

Max Barry had recently started pouring concrete for a construction company in Denver and intended on staying there for a while.

"Last Saturday night, he was with some friends ... together, with those friends, he did take drugs and those drugs did kill him," said the mayor.

When asked why she and her husband, Bruce, decided to share the details of their son's death, she had this to say.

"Bruce and I made a decision, almost immediately, that in order for us to have an honest conversation about Max, it also had to include how he died. As I said, I don't want that to be the whole conversation about my son, but it is an important part of his life, so we didn't want to not be transparent, we didn't want to not share this. I think that my hope is that it may inspire and encourage other parents out there to have frank conversations about this. And if that saves one life, then what a blessing," said the mayor.

The mayor said 245 overdoses involving opioids happened in Davidson County last year. The city has been working to equip ambulances and first responders with Narcan.

The mayor said Narcan was administered to her son, but it didn't save his life

"As we continue to think about what we can be doing as a community, it's not that last moment, though, it's all those moments that come before the Narcan, and that's meaning that we have to be more specific about this crisis," the mayor said.

She said part of this year's budget includes the hiring of an opioid specialist through the public health department. The city is still working to fill that position.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was in Nashville last week, reached out to express his condolences to the mayor and her family.

"Our hearts will always be sad and empty because we can never replace our child, and I know that with my faith, and I know that with my family, and I know that with my friends, we will get through this," she said.

The mayor said her life moving forward is going to be a "new normal."

"The new normal is that Max is not gonna text me back, I'm not gonna hear his voice again, but the work of our city goes on, and so every day, I'll get up in this new normal and do what needs to be done," she said.

Mayor Barry said when she received a knock in the middle of the night on her door, it wasn't for the reason she suspected.

"I could see a police officer in uniform through the door and my first thought, as the mayor of our city, was a police officer had been shot," Barry said.

She said a member of her security detail informed her of Max's death.

"Sgt. Forrest had the unfortunate responsibility and duty that that was not why he was there. And he told me Max had passed away, and he had to repeat it several times because that's not what my brain could hear," she said.

Earlier in the day, the mayor released this letter to the public, expressing her thanks to everyone for showing their support:

Thank you, Nashville.

At around 3 a.m. last Sunday, my husband Bruce and I awoke to a knock on the door. We proceeded to receive the most devastating news a parent could ever hear – that our beloved son, Max, had left this world before us.

In those next few moments, we were crushed by a weight of sadness and grief – of pain and disbelief.

But within hours, we were surrounded by close friends who came to us in our time of need to shoulder this great pain and burden. Shortly thereafter, we released the news publicly that Max had suffered from an overdose and died because we knew that as a public family, our private pain would not stay private for long.

What happened next was a tremendous outpouring of love and affection from all over Nashville and across the country. Close friends and perfect strangers sent their thoughts and prayers, offers of assistance, and deeply personal stories of their own similar pain, and how they were able to push forward.

As Bruce said at Max’s memorial, 'this crushing weight of sadness and loss has an incredible emotional counterweight called community … this warm embrace from an incredible family, and an incredible community, and an astounding city. This warm embrace fills that hole [in our hearts] in a lot of ways, and to a significant extent.'

In my office hangs a sign. It reads: 'Power is about waking up every day and making a difference in someone else’s life.'

Over the last week, the Nashville community has shown itself to be tremendously powerful, because you have all made a difference in our lives as we mourn the loss of our son.

Now, it is time for me to return to a new normal.

Over the last two years, I’ve talked with many mothers who have lost children – most often to gun violence. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t really understand how painful that must be.

Now, I know. Now, I understand.

With that knowledge, I must move forward for all of the people in Nashville who are not as fortunate as myself or my family to have an entire city come together and lift them up in their most tragic and painful moment.

They are families who have lost a loved one to drugs, or victims of crime or gun violence, or simply people who are wanting for the opportunities and pathways to success that children like my son, Max, had available to them.

I don’t yet know what that looks like, but I know that I must use the time I have left in office to return to the community the love, kindness, and compassion that we have received in our time of need. Nashville, you’ve pulled us up in our lowest moments. You’ve blanketed us with love and kindness. I want to do everything in my power – and with my power – to do the same for you.

While the following two words are not enough to truly express my gratitude for your outpouring of support, as I have learned over the last week, sometimes there are no other words.

Thank you.

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