Chad Bauer wishes he could wake up from the nightmare he's been living for more than a year.
It began at 1 a.m. Jan. 17, 2021, when his 20-year-old son Logan came back to their New Haven home after spending time with his girlfriend.
After giving his father a hug and telling him, “Love you, Pops,” Logan asked his father to make sure to wake him in time to usher at church and went to bed.
A light sleeper, Bauer woke about 5 a.m. and checked on his 17-year-old daughter Calyn and then Logan, whom he noticed was sleeping on his side on the top of his bunk bed.
“His body was turned away from me, and it looked like he was breathing,” the Fort Wayne Fire Department captain said. “I wish I would have turned him over, but I never did before so I just went back to bed.”
At 8 a.m., Bauer woke with a bad feeling that intensified when he walked into Logan's room to find that his son wasn't breathing.
“I have been on enough runs as a firefighter, I knew he was gone,” Bauer said, “but I lifted him off the top bunk and put him down, screaming at Calyn to call 911, and I started chest compressions.
“I was yelling at God the whole time, 'Please do not take my son, don't do this,' but I had been on enough of those runs that I knew he was gone.”
He's not sure how long he kept up the compressions, but the arriving New Haven Fire Department members guided Bauer downstairs.
“Then they came down and told me that he was ... after that, it was just a blur,” he said. “My life ended at that point, basically. I was like an amputee. I'm still alive, but I'll never be the same.”
Logan died of a fentanyl overdose.
The young man had been working third shift for the Fort Wayne Street Department, and Bauer wonders if he was looking for something to help him sleep so he'd get up in time for church.
Maybe he grabbed the wrong drug. Maybe. But no one will ever know for sure.
A devoted, hands-on dad, his son's death hit Bauer hard.
Bauer, who described Logan as a good student at Concordia Lutheran High School, where he was a cross country runner, soccer player and a Junior ROTC member, began to question himself and things he might have done differently. He thought about how he'd never see his son get married or become a father or a coach.
Bauer was hurting so badly that he contemplated suicide two different times.
“Something told me both those times, don't do this,” he said. “Logan would have frowned on it, my daughters and; ... I want people to know those things happened because there is always hope when you are so low.”
He finally found purpose in the tragedy by telling his and Logan's story and talking to students and parents about drug use. His first talk was Nov. 17 to a group of Huntington North High School parents, where he wondered if there were others he might help with his talk.
Now, he speaks at high school assemblies, begging students to consider the consequences of the things they might try.
“What I took away from that is I think sometimes we sugarcoat things we need to say, especially in law enforcement because we have to,” said lifetime friend Chris Newton, the Huntington County sheriff. “When he spoke, it was real. He didn't hold back. He spoke from his heart and from the loss of his son, some things he had to see and some things he had to do. To me as a parent, that's what made me the proudest. I gave him a hug when he got done, and said, 'Thanks for keeping it real. That's what these people need to hear.'
“The people in that audience were people who are either dealing with a loved one who is currently abusing or who have lost someone. I would think the way he talked probably resonated more with them than me or one of the detectives up there talking. It felt more real.”
Bauer speaks from a parent's perspective, telling students that while Logan felt invulnerable, was a God-fearing young man and loved, this still happened to him.
“Someone loves you, a pastor, a teacher, a cousin, and you are going to destroy their lives,” Bauer said to his audience.
“Please think about them first.”
Bauer found hope in his faith, went to grief counseling and talked with his pastor, Scott Zeckzer of New Haven's Emanuel Lutheran Church.
“I finally said, 'God, I surrender. Instead of blaming you, I thank you for the 201/2 years you gave me my son,'” Bauer said. “It was a little bit of a weight off. I just gave it to Him.”
Zeckzer told Bauer that for whatever reason, God chose him for this purpose.
“This is a horrific event that happened in his life, but he's decided that out of this there will be some good,” Zeckzer said. “And we've talked about this. Even if it's one person that we reach, it won't take the pain away, but at least there is some purpose we can derive from this event.
“For whatever reason, the Lord shortened Logan's time, but now I'm amazed Chad is going out and sharing his story with others.”
Bauer believes it must be a divine purpose. He said drugs are an epidemic in the community and in every community no matter how much some people want to ignore the reality.
“I feel like there is a mission here, that I don't want families and friends to go through what I went through,” Bauer said. “I feel from my heart that Logan would want me to do this, and maybe it's God's plan. I hope (Logan) would approve of this. I think he would say, 'Keep going, Pops.'”