The why of this book
If writing a book is a journey, that journey has been a long, winding path in this case. The idea of bringing Jim Muri's life to the printed page first arose six years ago, and the project is nearing completion this spring.
The latest fork in the road took me this week to the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City. Here, my son, another family member and I are waiting and monitoring the treatment of the single most important person in making this book a reality: my wife, Carolyn. You'll read why in the excerpt from the forward to "Midway Bravery" below.
On Monday, March 25, 2019, doctors at Bozeman Health, in our southwestern Montana community, discovered the root cause of Carolyn's recent spate of falls, dizziness, headaches and balance issues. They found two lesions in her brain, one in her occipital lobe and the other in her brain stem. (The occipital lobe serves as the brain's primary visual center.)
A medical air ambulance transported Carolyn, accompanied by our son, Julian, to the Huntsman Center that evening. On Tuesday, my wife's cousin and I drove from Bozeman to Salt Lake City, arriving here just before 6 p.m.
Julian is a microbiology major in college who will receive his degree from Montana State University in the spring of 2020. He also is an EMT. He's been a vital part of the growing team supporting Carolyn and me on the biggest and most important journey of our 18 years of marriage. Julian spoke to his mother's neurosurgeon on Tuesday -- I haven't yet had a conversation with him. The surgeon is confident he can safely remove the lesion in Carolyn's occipital lobe. The medical team will also biopsy the tissue that was removed to get more specifics.
Our belief and hope is the biopsy also will provide information for treatment of the other lesion on the brain stem where surgery is not possible. Another treatment regimen will be needed for that lesion.
In conversations with our pastor and other well-wishers in Bozeman, I've emphasized the team nature of my book. Carolyn, my steadfast helpmate, owns this project as much as I do. I'm the writer, but the inspiration to start writing came from what I call Carolyn's three magic words.
Your positive thoughts, your prayers if you are so inclined and your spiritual energy all matter to us at this time. Thanks.
It’s easy to say exactly when and where the idea for this book burst forth. From those nuggets flows the “why” of the book.
On February 11, 2013, during my previous life as a proposal manager for one of the world’s biggest software companies, I worked out of my home office in a town near Bozeman, Montana. As I usually did then, I began my morning by streaming “Morning Edition,” the National Public Radio news program carried by Yellowstone Public Radio, which broadcasts from Billings, Montana. My ears perked when I heard program host Robert Siegel start a news segment with the following:
“People used to ask Jim Muri about the 4th of June 1942. And, according to his family, he tended to be surprised by their interest. On that day, Mr. Muri, who died earlier this month at age 94, was a B-26 bomber pilot in World War II.”
Siegel continued by telling how Muri and his six-man crew carried out an audacious attack against a Japanese carrier group sailing towards Midway Atoll. The carriers were part of a massive fleet, which the Japanese Navy planned to use to invade and take over the atoll. Midway could have then been used as a springboard for further strikes against the U.S., still reeling from the December 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Their ensuing torpedo run became the stuff of legend. Jim Muri’s plane was riddled with anti-aircraft fire as he flew toward a Japanese carrier, then he had to fly back (to Midway), pursued by Japanese planes firing at him,” Siegel said. The NPR newsman said a YouTube video described how Muri successfully avoided being shot down and ending up dead, along with his crew, in the Pacific Ocean. Muri’s spur-of-the-moment lifesaving decision was to fly his bomber the length of the carrier, so low the plane’s wheels could have touched the deck if they were put down. Thus, the plane avoided enemy fire long enough to escape and return to the American base.
Siegel followed with an interview with Muri’s daughter, Sylvia Saadati, of Kingsport, Tennessee, in which she recalled stories she heard about her father’s heroism.
I burst out of my office and found my wife, a retired school librarian, seated in the front room of our house, gazing at a Montana winter scene outside.
I summarized what I had heard, then said, “I wonder if this Muri guy is related to the Muris I knew in high school in Miles City (Montana).”
Then came three fateful words from my wife, who met me after my career as a daily newspaper reporter ended but who knew I harbored further writing ambitions.
“There’s your book,” Carolyn said.
More than anyone else, this book was inspired by my wife, the woman I’ve loved for the past two decades, Steadfast, supportive and always willing to hear the latest wrinkles in my stories, she is the kind of partner any writer wants and deserves.