A loop of blue dental floss is one of Ashley Volk's treasured possessions, and it's introduced at the start of a New York Times article on a moving story of a modern love that overcame great obstacles. The Chicago woman first spotted it on the ring finger of Samuel Siatta's left hand while visiting him at Illinois' Shawnee Correctional Center. She had loved him since she was 10. Now, in their mid-20s, he was in the midst of a six-year sentence. The floss, he explained, was a reminder that his time in prison would come to an end in 2022, and that when it did, "we're going to have a future, and I'm going to marry you." As CJ Chivers writes, that real future came more quickly than either expected. Siatta had been a rifleman with the Marines in Afghanistan. As he returned home from war, the PTSD set in and the drinking intensified.
One blackout-drunk night in 2014, he busted in the door of a home near where he lived and fought with a former Marine who was inside. Siatta can't recall the incident, in which he wielded a pan and ended up stabbed nine times—and then in prison. Then came a December 2016 lengthy NYT Magazine article on Siatta by Chivers that ended up spurring his release (the piece explains how his conviction ended up being vacated). More good was to come: Justice Terrence J. Lavin had also read about Siatta; his own nephew had lost his life in Afghanistan, and he felt driven to help Siatta out. He met with Volk and Siatta, who spoke of his bad luck: his disability pension had abruptly stopped and he needed a job. Thanks to Lavin, by Halloween he had both a job and a wife, the judge having married the couple. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)