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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville Mayor Megan Barry returned to work Monday for the first time since the death of her son.
She started her day by handing out backpacks to Metro Schools students as they returned to class.
The mayor, who lost her son to a drug overdose just over a week ago in Colorado, told reporters it was important for her to greet students on their first day of school.
“It was meaningful and special to me, and I’ll tell you why,” Barry explained. “The first day of school in our household was always a joyous occasion. Max loved school and our ritual was that we would always take a picture every day of the first day of school.”
The mayor continued, “I was really happy that he continued that tradition for me when he went to college. Freshman year, sophomore year, junior year and senior year, he would take a picture and send it back to me.”MORE: Mayor Barry pens thank you letter to Nashville following death of son
While addressing the media for the first time since 22-year-old Max’s untimely death, the mayor spoke about how difficult the past week and a half has been for her and her family.
“The last nine days have been – [I] don’t even have words,” she said. “The reality of it is Max overdosed on drugs. I don’t know what the combination of drugs was, but I do know, and we all know, that that’s what caused him to die.”
The mayor went on to say Max went to rehab last summer.
“He went to rehab. He spent a month in rehab and that was really good for him and our family. He was able to finish rehab and he went back to school for his senior year. He was strong for a year,” Barry said. “I don’t know the exact combination [of drugs] that killed my son, but drugs did it.”
At the time of his death on July 29, Max was working for a construction company in Colorado. The mayor said he intended to get an apartment with a few friends and live there awhile before making his way back to Nashville.
Mayor Barry also spoke to reporters about the moment she learned of her son’s death. Metro Police Sergeant Rob Forrest, who works security for the mayor’s office, showed up to her door at 3 a.m.
“My first thought as the mayor of our city was that a police officer had been shot, so that’s where my mind was,” she recalled. “He told me that Max had passed away. He had to repeat it several times because that was not what my brain could hear.”
The mayor said she and her husband decided almost immediately they would openly discuss with the public on how Max died.
“My hope is that it will inspire other parents out there to have frank conversations with their own children and if that saves one life, that’s a blessing,” she said.
The mayor continued, “Max will continue to inspire me and Bruce for the rest of our lives. Our hearts will always be sad and empty because we can never replace our child. I know with my faith and I know that with my family, and I know that with my friends we will get through this.”
Mayor Barry said as she continues to adjust to what she calls her “new normal,” the work of the city will continue.
“The new normal for me is I get to get up every day now and I don’t get to ever talk to my son again. Max, as most kids his age, was a regular texter. The normal is Max is not going to text me back,” she said. “The work of our city goes on. Every day I’ll get up and do what needs to be done.”
Max was memorialized last Tuesday during a celebration of life ceremony at the Belcourt Theater.