ROTTERDAM — Friends and family gathered on Wednesday to remember a Rotterdam woman one year after she died of an accidental overdose.
Nearly 40 people attended a brief vigil outside of the home of Anthony and Lynne Piscitella to remember Jennifer Nicole Piscitella, who died on April 29, 2019.
Piscitella’s obituary garnered widespread attention after going viral.
“Heroin is a nasty drug,” it stated.
Attendees clutched white balloons containing inspirational messages as the sky threatened rain.
“We all love you over the rainbow,” one read.
Many gazed at a small table containing photos of Piscitella and bottles of hand sanitizer.
They stood silently as Rascal Flatts’ “Why” boomed through the suburban neighborhood.
“Oh why, that’s what I keep askin’
Was there anything I could have said or done
Oh I, had no clue you were masking a troubled soul
God only knows what went wrong
And why you’d leave the stage in the middle of a song
Then they watched the balloons fade into the dimming sky.
A pair of Rotterdam Police Department cruisers blocked off both ends of Merritt Drive during the brief event, a rarity in an era of social distancing.
Mask-clad families stood together, but were grouped at least 6 feet apart.
Officials spoke with the Piscitellas beforehand to stress the delicate balance between expressing grief and public safety.
Authorities acknowledged at least one complaint from a resident, prompting them to ask the family to accelerate the proceedings.
“We agree with those concerns,” said Lt. Kyle Girard. “At the same time, at a memorial service for a grieving family, we wanted to make sure they can grieve in a way they wanted to.”
As the balloons drifted away, Jennifer’s parents, Anthony and Lynne Piscitella, quickly handed out goodie bags and people drifted off, including a pair of motorcyclists keeping a solemn watch.
Jennifer’s obituary, which implores people to ask for help if they are struggling with addiction, was ultimately read by 2.5 million people, according to her father.
“We couldn’t save our daughter,” Anthony said on Wednesday. “But if we could save someone else, that’s our mission.”
Piscitella was 28.