Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

An unexpected message


A short while after Casey died, Michelle got a text message from her 17-year-old son, Eric. He had just listened to the messages on their answering machine. They don’t normally use that phone line, because most of the calls to it come from telemarket­ers.

But this call came from a private number, and the woman said “White House” twice. The number she left had an area code from Washington, D.C.

Michelle called the White House and was told that officials there had read about Casey and that Kemp Chester, then the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, wanted to speak with Michelle. Casey’s obituary had caught their attention because of its candor and because it touched on the larger, national issues of drug addiction and access to treatment.

They arranged a time, and Michelle and Mr. Chester spoke on the phone for almost a half hour. He asked for permission to use She got so many that the messaging app on her phone crashed, and she stopped keeping count. There are photos from all 50 states, and from many foreign countries.

She spent days and long nights meticulous­ly placing the photos in a scrapbook — the first one she’s ever made — and then surprised Michelle with it over lunch at an Eat’n Park.

“I thought I could accept it gracefully, and I just cried the entire time,” Michelle said.

Pictures continued to come in, and extra ones now fill a pouch in the back of the scrapbook. There are photos that the senders never could have known perfectly reflected Casey. Someone from Oregon sent a photo with the house from the “Twilight” movies, which Casey

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