Remembrance of Things Past

Call us heretical, but we’ve always said that our book discussions are far more interesting than the books we read. While discussing Unless by Carol Shields, a forty year old, long suppressed memory of mine surfaced… a classmate of mine in Hunter College had self immolated in front of the United Nations as a protest against the Viet Nam war. Apparently this memory was so far buried that I could not even remember his name. I “Googled” the event which provided his name…. Roger LaPorte. Feeling frustrated, I asked Chris Garland for help. He managed to retrieve a New York Times article and the name of a person who worked at the Catholic Worker along with Roger all those years ago. After contacting the Catholic Worker, I was sent original newspapers which dealt with the subject of his suicide and its moral implications. From there I was connected with a woman who worked alongside him when he fed the homeless and the indigent; she is hoping to publish a book about Roger. The gentle young man in my French class became a reality and I have been allowed to both mourn him and celebrate his brief life.

Although Unless did not deal with the subject of suicide, it did deal with the theme of loss; perhaps this is what struck that chord in me.

Maggie DeLollis


4 Responses to Remembrance of Things Past

  1. Sonia Erlich says:

    Wow! Maggie, what memories your blog triggered!
    At a violent anti-Vietnam war protest on 5/1/69 in NYC, my mother was shot with a poison dart intended for a mounted policeman’s horse. Mother’s shocking injury propelled me to this bucolic village of Melville. And on the same day that I contracted to build my home, tragically another young man set himself on fire in front of the UN. Bruce Mayrock, age 20, a Fortunoff son and grandson took his life on 5/29/69.
    Special thanks to Rita Gross who helped me document these memories, including
    locating Bruce’s burial site, allowing me to leave a stone from my yard at his grave.
    I believe Roger and Bruce are together continuing their on-going struggle for a world free of war!
    Sonia Erlich

  2. Shelley Lauer-Bader says:

    Thank you Maggie, for your post. I love our book discussions and I love leading the group. No matter what the book, the discussions are meaningful and thought-provoking.

    Our February discussion should be amazing with a title like The Good Husband.

  3. suzanne says:

    I would like to know if anyone knows where bruce mayrock was buried? I am an old school friend and would like to visit his grave as his birthday is soon.

  4. Ofoma C. C says:

    Iam a Biafran & deeply appreciate Bruce Mayrock for his “sacrificial suicide” to save nine million Biafrans subjected to genocide during the war!

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