It’s Fun Until..

The Life, Death, and Lessons Learned from Josh Levine’s Tragedy


On Wednesday, February 11th, Julie Buckner, mother of Josh Levine and also the founder of the Josh E. Levine Foundation, came to West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) to speak about her son and the deadly outcomes of binge drinking and drugs. She spoke during school hours and in the evening to both students and parents. She shared the tragic story of her son’s death, and the lessons she learned afterwards. Mrs. Buckner’s life has changed drastically in the past 30 weeks, and it continues to change with each week that passes. Mrs. Buckner was able to spread her message to many by coming to West Bloomfield and teaching  important lessons about drugs and being responsible.  Jordan Robinson, a freshman at WBHS said, “I want to learn what to do in certain situations.” The goal of Mrs Buckner’s speeches are to end binge drinking and avoid a tragedy like Josh’s from happening ever again. Mrs. Buckner tells of the lessons she has learned, and now shares the knowledge she has gained with events, such as the speech at WBHS.

Before Mrs. Buckner spoke, students and parents filed into the WBHS auditorium and waited. When asked why they came to listen to Mrs Buckner, WBHS freshman Garret Jackson said, “I want to support the cause . . . I want to learn what to do and what not to do when I’m going to a party.” Sophomore Elizabeth Watkins-Miller said, “I want to learn how to spread awareness.” When asked what he wanted to learn, freshman Jensen Hwa said, “I want to learn about what happens when you abuse drugs and why it is so dangerous.” While students and parents patiently waited, Mrs Buckner was spreading the mood with joyful hugs and the remembering of old faces. Eventually, she made her way to the microphone, and began her speech.

First, Mrs. Buckner recalled the wonderful story of her son’s life and legacy, and then transitioned to the devastating story of her son’s death and the fatal mistake he made. Josh Levine mixed adderall and alcohol, which allowed him to binge drink without the affects of being intoxicated. This, unfortunately, led to Levine becoming brain dead, which later lead to his death. Mrs. Buckner, however, did not focus her speech on the tragedy of his life. Instead she stressed the legacy and lesson he left behind for future generations. “I do not want any other family to experience the same pain that mine has in the past 29 weeks,” said Mrs. Buckner. She understood that teens will drink, but she wants them to be responsible and careful instead of wild and reckless.

After the speech, when asked what the most important and powerful lesson she wanted kids to walk away with, Lisa Berkey of the Greater West Bloomfield Community Coalition, answered, “I want students, especially at the high school level, to remember that every action they make has a consequence, be it positive or negative, so when they’re out and possibly making bad choices, they have to remember what the consequences will be.” Berkey also talked about future events, “ Julie is not going to speak anywhere else for us but the coalition does other parent forum events, we have a bunch of flyers out front of upcoming events such as the heroin event which is February 24, our annual fundraiser is March 25 and we’ll be remembering Josh at that event.” Mrs. Buckner also answered a few questions, one being out of all the lessons she shared with the people who attended the speech that night, which was the most moving lesson she wanted people to walk away with. She responded, “Right off the top is the idea is that it can happen to anybody at any time and you just never know what combination of things can be fatal or just extremely poisonous.” Mrs. Buckner also feels strongly about changing the amount of binge drinking, “I want it to pull back completely, I don’t want it to get to the point where there is so many negative repercussions because of it, and it goes back to it’s fun until, and the downside is so much more than the upside and it’s about getting this generation to realize that they can have a good time without getting to the point of binge drinking.” Mrs. Buckner’s speech was extremely moving, and many walked away with lessons that they will now share with their friends, children, and other loved ones.