On Sunday June 9, I’ll be appearing with a lot of other writers to celebrate books and writing on the grounds of the Paramus Public Library, E 116 Century Road in Paramus. We’ll be there from 1-5, and I’ll be talking about City of Dust and my other books. Hope to see you there.
I just heard from Dr. David Prezant of the FDNY. Lt. Marty Fullam, FDNY veteran and one of the legion of men who rushed to the burning wrecks of buildings when everyone else was running away, has died. You might remember that I wrote about Marty and his brother David, also a FDNY veteran, in “City of Dust,” and he played a central role in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “Terror in the Dust” documentary in 2011. Marty, father of three girls, was one of those soft-spoken determined kind of guys who avoided the spotlight whenever possible. I had to talk him into sharing his story of rounding up his Staten Island FDNY colleagues to drive down to the ferry terminal on that morning. They marched up Broadway to the blackened hulks and worked there on and off for months. A few years later Marty came down with severe lung ailments that required a lung transplant. When the new lung started to fail, he prepared himself to go for another. Throughout the long ordeal, he never gave up hope, never succumbed to bitterness, never lost sight of what was truly important to him–his wife and three daughters and the home they made for themselves in Staten Island.
If you had a chance to read my piece about the bubonic plague, you got just a short introduction to John Tull and Lucinda Marker, two exceptional people I first met ten years ago. At that time, John was lying in a hospital bed,with barely enough strength to move his arms. Lucinda, as always, was right at his side. They had been through hell and back, dealing with the terrible reality of bubonic plague. And yet, they did not then, and they do not now, despair in any way. Sure John has not been able to get back on the hiking trail as he had envisioned back then. But he has, with Lucinda’s help, remained realistic and positive about his life, never allowing anger to blind him to the most extraordinary part of his life–the relationship he and Lucinda have together. They give the notion of “overcoming adversity” an entirely new meaning, and they can show the rest of us what it means to truly live in the day, to take nothing for granted and to rejoice in everything that we have.
Ten years ago I interviewed two extraordinary people. John Tull and Lucinda Marker had come to NYC from New Mexico for a brief vacation and while here they got deadly sick. It took a couple of days but they got to a hospital and the docs found that they both had bubonic plague…yes, same as the 14th century Black Death. Seems the bacterium exists in a couple of Western states and a few people get it every year. But no one in NYC had it for over a century, and coming as it did just a year after 9/11, we all worried about an attack. I had a chance to catch up with John and Lucinda again, and to tell this next chapter of their story. Here the link for the print piece that will run in Tuesday’s Science section of The Times. We also did a podcast, with John and Lucinda on the line from New Mexico. This link will take you to the part of the page where the podcast is. The plague segment starts at 13:00.
Fifty years ago today, things were far scarier than any Halloween stunt. Fidel Castro thought Cuba was doomed and he wanted to bring as much of the US with him as possible into oblivion. Incredible? Documents show that he was ready to sacrifice all 6.5 million Cubans then living on the island for the sake of his unstable beliefs.