Teresa Rosales spoke to all of Socorro High School’s classes.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

Tomas Rosales was that kid.

The full-of-life teenager could light up a room with his personality and bring a smile to the faces of those around him.

That light has been snuffed out, and Rosales’s images hang on a banner on the wall of the commons area of Socorro High School. At 16 years old, he’s become a grim reminder that the drug fentanyl is an equal-opportunity killer.

Tomas’ memory was honored before Socorro’s homecoming game against Hatch Valley as the Warrior seniors carried a banner with his name and jersey number out onto the field with them.

The day Tomas died was like many others in his young life, until it wasn’t.

He spent the day doing normal teenage activities, including heading out for his final fishing trip. On the way, his mother believes he either was given or purchased a pill containing fentanyl.

Tomas’ denials of taking fentanyl as he was under emergency care in a hospital with his mother at hand led to some confusion and misinformation. Onsite tests did not show the drug in his system.

It wasn’t fentanyl that killed Tomas — until a final autopsy report released three months later said otherwise.

At the time, Rosales’ mother, Teresa, and her family were still dealing with the tragedy of his death. There were indicative signs, but all the tests said no.

Today, they are a family still trying to understand how Tomas’ first encounter with fentanyl was also his last.

Teresa Rosales is an overdose prevention coordinator, and her son was naturally more educated about the dangers of drugs like fentanyl.

Armed with such knowledge, Tomas may have experimented with a “good” drug like marijuana, but he was too smart to mess around with “bad” drugs.

More sensitive and time-consuming tests conducted by medical examiners showed fentanyl was the culprit. Considering that it only takes about two grains of salt worth (size-wise) of fentanyl to kill a person, it took a while to find it in the nearly 200-pound frame of the sophomore lineman.

On Oct. 24, Teresa bravely retold the story of Tomas’s passing and rethought what she could have done each time differently.

“This legendary kid everyone loved so much made a dumb mistake, and it took his life,” Teresa said. “He wasn’t out there jumping around from drug to drug and experimenting — he wasn’t there yet.”

Teresa’s a realist and has seen many things as part of her job and knows there were family dynamics among Tomas’ friends that could have worked toward his introduction to any number of drugs. She has seen the decade-long battle against meth turn into the current opioid crisis in the state.

Her appearance was part of the Socorro schools’ Red Ribbon Week activities, and Rosales wants to help spread the message about the dangers of fentanyl.

“I don’t think coming here for one day or week will help every single kid realize the seriousness of what is distributed, and we are going to have to keep doing it over and over,” Rosales said.

Part of reaching out and sharing Tomas’ story is helping Rosales heal. Still, there is one reality she lives with every day.

“I always taught my kids wrong from right. But I forgot to teach them the bad from the good. And you hate to put ‘good’ anywhere that drugs are being used. But I can’t tell you that I sat down and told them. Hey, guys, there’s this really nasty drug, fentanyl going around. And it could very well end up in your hands. I didn’t think I had to. And we do,” Rosales said.