Not Just a Number
Was born from the pain, suffering, and anger I endured when my husband Anthony passed away after a brief battle with Stage IV lung cancer. The book was written not only as a tribute to my husband, but for his friends and coworkers at the MTA, who lost their lives just like he did, and from the same cause: diesel fumes. The measure of their lives should not be viewed in the number of years they lived, but rather in the love they left behind.
As I look back on the five years since my husband’s death, I can’t help but recall Anthony’s friends who provided support and offered my family the comfort and hope we needed to keep going. Anthony was a devoted and loving husband and father who protected our family to the last minute of his life. He was not just a number to us, and neither are those people who helped me in the ensuing years. I am grateful to the TWU Local 100 members, both retired and active – those who want their names mentioned and those who do not out of fear of reprisals – for their support and never ending help, in person and through the MaBSTOA Garages Then and Now Facebook page. You provided me with tons of information, as well as testimony, and helped me to win the compensation case and ultimately encouraged me to write this book.
Without your help and sacrifice Not Just a Number would never have been written. THANK YOU!
My son Michael and my daughter Samantha also deserve a great deal of credit for listening to their mother and helping to support me, and by being the strong adult children any parent would be proud of. They believed in me, and in this project, in spite of all the time it took me away from them.
I am also grateful
To my sister Urszula, who was always there for us no matter what; my two girlfriends Mary and Barbara and their families, who treated us like their own; James Dockerty, for keeping my husband’s memory alive by constantly texting me and telling me Anthony’s stories from work; Elwanda Stephens, for using her knowledge and union background to teach me how unions operate internally and for the long hours she spent reading early drafts and expressing her feelings about each chapter; Loretta Prino, who offered her comments and suggestions on the early drafts; all the flight attendants at United Airlines, my friends and coworkers, who listened to me for hours while sitting in the jump seat on flights to and from Delhi and Mumbai, India; my neighbors, who were always there when I needed them; Kathleen Coronia, a friend and good listener throughout the years; John Dearie, of the John Dearie Law Firm, who bravely fought and sadly lost a lawsuit on behalf of those of us adversely affected by diesel exhaust; and Brian O’Keefe and Alissa Gardos, who, along with the dedicated staff of the law firm Grey & Grey, won a compensation lawsuit on my behalf.
Special thanks to our editor Jeanie Karmiller, who helped us improve our manuscript by asking tough questions, and by honestly pointing out where we lacked for clarity and organization.
Last but not least, I should thank my coauthor, Chris Moore, whose ability to listen, commitment, and perseverance made the long hard task of writing a book a little easier. I’m happy that Chris’s father in-law thought so highly as to recommend him to a friend of mine who recommended him to me.
Life is full of strange coincidences that aren’t always coincidental. Completing this book is one of those.
Anthony always believed that he was living out his destiny. I know completing this book and building an awareness of the historic dangers of diesel fumes is mine.
Diesel fumes give you cancer. I won the first lawsuit in the country proving the link, and Not Just a Number tells the story of my battle against the New York City MTA where my husband Anthony worked as a diesel mechanic for most of his adult life.
Anthony was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in September of 2011. The diagnosis happened the very day he received his first retirement check. He died three months later.
When the worst of my pain over his loss had ceased, I remembered the advice I had gotten from one of Anthony’s doctors: “Get yourself a good lawyer,” he had said. “What your husband has is environmental.” I didn’t know what that meant, but Anthony did. “It’s diesel!” Even though he understood the cause, he didn’t think it was worth the fight – the MTA was too large. “Don’t you get it? I’m just a number to them!”
But Anthony wasn’t just a number to me, and from that point forward I resolved to make his company know it too.
In 2014, I won the first lawsuit linking diesel fumes to cancer in the United States. But the most shocking revelation came when I realized the sheer number of men and women who have died in the streets, garages, and tunnels of New York City for decades from preventable diesel fume inhalation, and yet it has happened in silence and continues to this day. I can’t let this tragic story go untold any longer. The world should be aware of what’s been happening for eight decades in our cities.
My book, Not Just a Number, is available on Amazon now, it tells this story and has the backing of my husband’s 41,000-member union, Local 100, and has been getting fantastic and emotional reviews.