Recently, in an online creative writing class taken through the University of Hawai’i, I wrote an alternate “About the Book” section for my true crime memoir, Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story, and posted it.
I received such positive feedback from a classmate (footnote #1 – please see below) that I just had to post the alternative opening here. Please tell me how you like it. 🙂
Twelve years of dispatching one crisis after another–fuel tank fires, cardiac arrests, drownings, even suicides—at Whaler Fire Department cemented my friendship with the men who risk their lives to save others. That’s why I stop by now and then to rest my elbows on blue vinyl-topped dining tables and “talk story” after eating dinner with the old timers. Last time, the firemen talked about Vic.
“His old bunkroom’s haunted,” a fireman said. “Hey, no joke.” He pointed to two large whale prints on the wall. “Remember the wooden plaque under those pictures that said, ‘In Memory of Vic Lazzarini’?”
He continued, “Just before the inspection last November, some numbskull ripped the lamp off Vic’s bunkroom wall, leaving live wires sticking out of the wall.”
Since he drove the first-response ramp truck, Vic slept in the bed closest to the door. Able to awake instantly from a dead sleep and faster than flames fanned by the tradewinds, Vic was a born fireman. I would no sooner hit the buttons that turned on the bunkroom lights and tone out one wailing signal for an airfield emergency than Vic, already bunkered out in the silver overalls of his turnout gear, slammed the door of Ramp 7 as he screech-wheeled it out of the station.
Half Navajo Freeman told me he heard voices right after they put the plaque on the bunkroom wall. “Someone woke me up saying, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ I had this eerie feeling somebody stood right beside me speaking those words.”
I knew the feeling. In the months after Vic was gunned down, I felt him closer than my own skin, especially when I dispatched an airfield alarm he would have responded to. Freeman continued, “Now, I’m thinking a spirit’s hanging around, so I guess some souls don’t go straight to heaven and it blows my mind. A priest needs to say a prayer for him.”
Yes, I thought. A prayer for Vic and one for me. It’s my fault he’s not at peace. I haven’t kept my promise to him.
Vic died on Valentine’s Day, 1985. For three days I was numb, unbelieving. Then it felt like my nerve endings exploded as waves of pain crashed through me. Grief squeezed all moisture from my body, left me dry of hope.
Vic and I were such deep dear friends that I felt pierced and shattered by the four bullets that tore through his body. Three days after he died, I almost saw him, sensing his presence so strongly, blue eyes still sparkling with humor, muscular arms crossed over his chest as he dropped one edge of his mouth as if to say, “I’m right here, dear.”
Big Vic was golden sunshine, free and funny and handsome.
He was my real-life hero.
I promised I’d tell the whole truth for him.
These words are that promise, a kind of redemption for me. This is his story, and mine.
(1) Your story moved me beyond words. In so few words, you brought to life a man I think everyone would have loved to have known. You described him so well I can see him standing there. I cried, I smiled and I got angry too that his life was cut short. A light has gone out in the world and I want to light a candle for Big Vic to say he is not forgotten and your promise kept. I want to read his story. Please post the link where we can purchase the book you published. I love the way you write, Lizbeth. Thank you.