Dear Editor,

The story I am about to tell is both personal and tragic. I weighed my family's privacy against the hope that maybe one life can be saved.

This fourth of July morning will be one year since I found my 20 year old son, Eddie Kobilis face down on the rec room floor. He was gone — and in an instant my family’s life had changed forever. My first words were WHY? WHY? WHY? 

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Eddie attended Altierus Institute five days a week and had just graduated two weeks prior with his Electrical Technician degree and was ready to start his career. He would typically get home about 2:00 p.m. from his classes and have something to eat before heading to Retro Fitness for his daily workout. He had gained over twenty pounds of muscle since joining after high school. In the evenings he worked at Sheelen’s Crossing, a restaurant in Fanwood. By April of 2018 Eddie had saved over $12,000 and that allowed him to make his first major purchase which was a brand new Honda Civic. My wife and I were so proud of him. Eddie had been working since he was fifteen years old at a number of local places including Grand Slam, Auto Tech and Pizza Stop. In the winters he would help his future brother - in - law Joe Sorrentino snow plow and also help Lance Smith out with his painting company whenever needed. Eddie was a hustler and he never asked me for a dollar. He took great pride in being self-sufficient.

The last time I saw my son alive was on July 3rd around 5:00 p.m. He had just returned from the gym and was excited because he finally had some free time. Sheelan’s Crossing was closed that entire week and Eddie had made plans to go out with his friends. By 9:00 p.m. that evening Eddie was receiving text messages from friends “ Where R U?” Eddie was already dead. There was no reason for me to check on him that evening. I just figured he was going out later and I retired early since we were having people over the next day to celebrate what used to be my favorite holiday. 

Eddie never made it out that night and I found him at 8:00 a.m. the following morning on the 4th of July. My wife and I were in a state of shock. Soon the house was filled with South Plainfield Police, EMT’s and then the medical examiner. My family and I would like to thank all of the first responders that were so professional, courteous and caring that day.

What killed my son, a strong healthy twenty year old boy? I soon found out. Detective Thomas Rutter (SPPD) was very suspicious. A residue was found from a crushed pill on Eddie’s laptop. Detective Rutter rushed it to the lab for testing and the results came back —FENTANYL.  

A few months later we received the medical examiner’s report and it confirmed what the initial lab report detailed- FENTANYL… enough to kill him 10 times over. I asked the medical examiner if anything else was in his system and the answer was no.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Fentanyl here are the facts. It is 50 times more potent than heroin. It is a synthetic opioid that is being manufactured illegally in China. Most of it is being smuggled into the United States over the Mexican Border. Drug dealers are buying pill press machines off the black market and they are adding Fentanyl to produce counterfeit pills that look identical to Xanax, Oxycontin, Etc. They are even adding it to Cocaine and Marijuana. Fentanyl is so potent that only a tiny bit is needed to produce one pill which is extremely profitable for the dealers, but there is no margin for error which has led to thousands of deaths.

There is a part of me that is angry with my son. As parents we don't want our children to ever do ANY types of drugs, but I also realized that kids do try things. Eddie was going out that night. He was happy. He was blossoming into an amazing young man who was poised for a bright future. Maryann and I could not be more proud of him. He was kind, hardworking, we could not have asked for a better son. 

There is an epidemic in this country. Fentanyl has killed over 50,000 people, mostly young kids over the last three years, almost equivalent to the amount of people that died in the Vietnam War over the course of a decade.

I applaud South Plainfield for recently implementing an awareness program. I do not want to see another family go through what Maryann, Michelle and I have gone through. The senselessness of Eddie’s death consumes me. My family misses him terribly. The grief never subsides, we just try to get used to it. 

For the parents who suspect their child may be doing drugs, even recreationally, have the conversation with them. For the children who are or are considering doing drugs just know a single pill can kill you.

When a child loses a parent they are called an orphan.

When a wife loses a husband, they are called a widow.

When a parent loses a child there is no word for it. 

It is that awful.

Ed Kobilis