D r. Sally Simmermon ate a quick breakfast, grabbed her gear, and began the daylong ascent of Mt. Veroli. She had studied volcanoes all her life, and she scaled the craggy peak with mounting enthusiasm. What kind of pyroclastic flow would she see? Would there be flank eruptions? Then she tripped and fell in. Burned up horribly. Tons of screaming and stuff.
The first 500 volcano stories you tell your four-year-old pour out like water. After that, your eyes cross, your brain pickles, and you start to fantasize about hurling yourself into a good Vesuvius or Krakatoa— which Cora, our kind, thoughtful daughter, would’ve loved, fleeting grief notwithstanding. She had developed a freakishly narrow obsession with volcanoes, and her scientific curiosity was matched handily by an interest in people sailing over the edge. We were not to skimp on gore. So I did what any parent of a budding vulcanologist would do. I bought us tickets to New York City.
We touched down at midnight amid a blinding February blizzard. JFK was in full grime mode, all things wet and gray and cold and tired. We threaded the grime—me, my wife, Amy, Cora, and, lashed to Amy’s chest, Cora’s new brother, Casper, eight weeks old. Taking my still-wobbly family to New York in the middle of winter was, by all the major indices, dumb. But greater forces were in control at this point.