StoryCorps

Fridays during Morning Edition

StoryCorps provides Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

Since Dave Isay founded StoryCorps in 2003, the organization has provided more than 100,000 Americans with access to a quiet booth and platform to record and share interviews about their lives. These Conversations are archived at the U.S. Library of Congress.

At the heart of StoryCorps is a simple, timeless idea: provide two friends or loved ones with a quiet space and 40 minutes of uninterrupted time for a meaningful face-to-face conversation that will be preserved for generations to come. StoryCorps seeks out the stories of people most often excluded from the historical record and preserves them so that the experience and wisdom contained within them may be passed from one generation to the next.

When John Banvard, 100, met Gerard "Jerry" Nadeau, 72, in 1993, neither of them had been openly gay.

"When we met, we were sort of in the closet, and I'd never had a real relationship. Now, we've been together almost 25 years," Jerry tells John during a StoryCorps interview.

"What would it have been like if you didn't meet me?" Jerry asks John.

"I would have continued being lonely," John says. "I'd been absolutely lost."

Lan Cao was just 7 years old when military forces launched an attack in her city outside of Saigon, Vietnam, in 1968. But she still remembers the chaos: the sound of automatic gunfire, the fighting near her house, how the sky lit up at night from explosions.

Sharon Brangman knew at a young age — around 10 years old — that she wanted to be a doctor one day.

So when a school guidance counselor put her in typing and home economics classes, her mother, Ruby Brangman, wouldn't have it. Ruby made a trip to her daughter's school to address the matter.

"Grandmother was like, 'Oh, no way,' " Sharon tells her daughter, Jenna Lester, in a StoryCorps interview in New York City. "I remember she went up to the school and said, 'I want my daughter transferred so she could go to college.' "

A favorite pastime for April Gibson and her teenage son, Gregory Bess, is simply talking to one another.

"I think I learn more from those conversations than school," says Gregory, who turned 17 on Thursday.

But during a recent StoryCorps conversation in St. Paul, Minn., April, 33, knew he wanted to talk about a subject the two hadn't really explored.

April invited her son to ask about what that time was like for her, as a young black mother. "Now you can ask me the hard question," April says.

"What did you feel like when I was born?" Gregory asks.

Dion Diamond was sitting at a "whites only" lunch counter in Arlington, Va., in 1960 when a crowd started gathering around him. At the time, he was a young black man participating in a sit-in at a local five-and-dime store with a group of black and white university students, and they were drawing some attention from people who didn't want them protesting.

At one point, a white boy — maybe 12 or 13 — pointed his finger at Dion. He seemed to say, " 'Get out, you know you are not wanted here,' " Dion tells StoryCorps in Washington, D.C.

Rickey Jackson spent nearly four decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

In May of 1975, when a shopkeeper at a small Cleveland grocery store was slain during a robbery, Eddie Vernon, then 12 years old, served as the main witness in the case. Eddie — who, in fact, hadn't seen anything — says he was pressured into testifying by police.

It seems like a simple question: If you could ask me anything in the world, what would it be? Anna Freeman poses this to her 8-year-old daughter, Brianna.

"Do you like unicorns?" Brianna asks.

"I do," says Anna, chuckling.

Brianna is obsessed with unicorns. She knows "they're not technically real," but they're real in her mind.

When her mom asks just why Brianna likes them so much, though, the answer isn't what she expected.

"They're cute. And they have horns, so they could attack their bullies," she says during their StoryCorps interview in Chicago.

It was Christmas of 2001, and Thompson Williams' family was struggling financially. "That year we used all our money just before Christmas so that we could pay the bills and buy groceries — at least we'd have something to eat," he tells his son, Kiamichi-tet at StoryCorps.

Thompson was teaching students with special needs, and his wife was selling handmade Christmas ornaments. They lived in Edmond, Okla., with Kiamichi-tet, then 11, and their daughter AuNane, 14.

It was Christmas Eve in 1967. William Lynn Weaver, 18 at the time, was walking in Mechanicsville, the neighborhood he grew up in in Knoxville, Tenn., when he saw a boy gliding down the street on a bicycle.

"Boy, that looks like my brother's bike," he mused.

When he got home, he asked his younger brother Wayne where that bicycle was. "It was down on the steps," he replied. But it wasn't.

The Weaver brothers tracked down where the boy lived — an unlit shack in an alley — and planned to confront him.

25 Years Later, He Speaks To The Man Who Killed His Son

Dec 8, 2017

Editor's note: This StoryCorps conversation was difficult to have, and may be hard for some listeners to hear and read.

Greg Gibson and Wayne Lo recently spoke for the first time in person at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, a medium-security level prison for male inmates, but the story behind their meeting — how their lives collided and subsequently crumbled — began decades ago.

They acknowledged this at the beginning of their StoryCorps conversation at the prison.

How A Slip Of Paper Impacted An AIDS Diagnosis

Dec 1, 2017

Christopher Harris was diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s. At the time, there was only one drug approved for treatment, and the diagnosis often meant a death sentence.

For Christopher, it led him to become an early member of the Atlanta Buyers Club, which distributed unapproved drugs to treat AIDS patients.

The diagnosis came not long after he began seeing Jim.

"He was so good looking," Christopher tells StoryCorps. "It was the first time that I had fallen in love, and we were together until the day he died."

They Comfort Strangers, So No One Dies Alone

Nov 24, 2017

When patients are near death, and don't have loved ones to be with them, David Wynn and Carolyn Lyon rush to the hospital.

"They have no one for various reasons, you know, they've outlived family, they've never married," Lyon says.

For about six years, Lyon has been comforting patients in their final hours at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif.; for Wynn, it's been about nine years.

For Thanksgiving, A Mailman Inspires Gratitude

Nov 23, 2017

Editor's Note: This story comes from a special holiday installment of StoryCorps. It's derived from a recording that comes from The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Every year, StoryCorps asks people to interview each other over the long weekend using their phones. For more information on how to participate, visit Storycorps.

Mike Kochar's grandfather only lasted one day as a mailman.

After He Died From An Opioid Overdose, She Got A New Chance At Life

Nov 17, 2017

When Adam Shay overdosed on heroin at 21 in 2014, his kidney and pancreas went to Karen Goodwin, a recovering addict herself. That unintended consequence of the opioid epidemic brought Goodwin together with Adam's mom, Marlene Shay.

At StoryCorps in Beachwood, Ohio, Shay recalls the day she got the call that every mother dreads.

Adam "had been in and out of rehab over the last three years, but he had been sober for a year and seemingly had it all together," she says. "And that day, we got a call from his fiancée that he overdosed and was slipping away."

She Served In Vietnam, But 'Nobody Had Ever Welcomed Me Home'

Nov 11, 2017

In the late 1960s, Karen Offutt was a teenager and considered herself very patriotic. She got chills whenever she heard "The Star-Spangled Banner." At 18, she dropped out of nursing school and enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Vietnam.

"I felt real proud to have the uniform on," Offutt, 68, told her 42-year-old daughter Kristin Glasgow at StoryCorps.

Josh Stepakoff was 6 years old in 1999, when a white supremacist opened fire on his day camp at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.

Josh was shot in his leg and hip. The gunman wounded four others, and shot and killed another man a few miles away. The shooting was ruled a federal hate crime, and the gunman is serving life in prison.

An Unlikely Friendship Reignites 2 Artists' Ambitions

Nov 3, 2017

Updated at 6:05 p.m. on Friday

Brian Peterson didn't know what he had in common with Matt Faris when he went out of his way to meet his Santa Ana, Calif., neighbor.

Every day, Peterson would pass by Faris, who has been homeless for more than a decade. But it took some guts, Peterson admits, to finally walk up to him.

"It was like butterflies in my stomach," he says. "I introduced myself, and I think I apologized to you. I remember saying, 'I'm sorry for like, driving by you a hundred times and never saying Hi,' 'cause you were always outside my building."

StoryCorps Animation: The Human Voice

May 16, 2016

The great oral historian Studs Terkel was an inspiration to StoryCorps, and he was also an early participant in the project. In this animated short, he speaks out on what has been lost in modern life and where he sees hope for our future.

Francisco Preciado came to California from Mexico as a young child. By the early 1980s, he was raising a young family of his own in the U.S. and working as a groundskeeper at Stanford.

On a recent visit to StoryCorps, his son, Frankie, recalls, "Since I was around 9 or 10, I would come sometimes with you to help you on campus."

"I told you that one day, you were going to go here to Stanford," answers Francisco.

A years and a half ago, Patricia Mishler was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. The condition, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, attacks the cells that control muscle function — and it is considered terminal.

"Most doctors will tell you three to 10 years, but nobody really knows," Mishler, 73, tells her two daughters, Suzanne and Janette, in a StoryCorps conversation for Mother's Day.

With that diagnosis comes a sense of impending loss, she says — not simply the prospect of death, but the loss of many abilities once taken for granted.

Sharon Long found her calling later in life. Back in the 1980s, she was a single mom trying to support her two kids, holding down several jobs at once — none of which she liked much.

"I worked at the Dairy Queen, and I cleaned a dentist's office, and I was a secretary," Long recalls, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "I hated every morning I got up."

But, as she tells her colleague Steve Sutter, everything changed for her at age 40. When she she took her daughter to register for college, a financial aid officer persuaded Long to enroll herself.

Vito de la Cruz practices law in Washington state, but his roots actually rest in Texas, where he grew up in a family of migrant farm workers. When de la Cruz was 5, he began working the fields himself in the 1960s.

"The family, we used to migrate. We traveled the migrant farmworkers' circuit," he tells his wife, Maria Sefchick-Del Paso, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "It was equal parts hardship and poverty."

At first glance, a posting for the job of bridgetender might not be the most attractive you've ever seen. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the person at the controls of the Ortega River Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla., must sit in a tiny booth, opening and closing the bridge so boats can pass.

Sounds like an awful job, right?

Some accidents have deadly consequences. And sometimes it's the thing you didn't do — didn't say, didn't see — that leaves you with the most guilt.

For 25 years, retired Army Col. David Taylor has carried feelings of guilt over the death of one of the soldiers in a maneuver he was leading.

In 1991, during one of the final battles of the Gulf War, Army Spc. Andy Alaniz was killed by friendly fire in Iraq. A U.S. tank unit fired rounds at the group of vehicles Alaniz was in, mistaking them for the enemy. He was one of 35 Americans killed by friendly fire in the war.

After a long, desolate winter devoid of bats and balls and more than a few questionable called strikes, big-league baseball is finally once more upon us. And while the action on the diamond is the main attraction, it's by no means the only competition that rages in ballparks across the country.

For a glimpse of another battle entirely, just look to the stands. There, in the aisles, you'll find vendors roaming the stadium selling refreshments, vying with one another to end each game as the day's top seller.

John Graziano, a second-grader in 1986, was diagnosed with HIV in a Chicago suburb called Wilmette. He had contracted the disease from his biological mother, but he had been adopted by the Graziano family.

"John was one of the first children in the state of Illinois to be diagnosed as HIV-positive," his adoptive father, Tom, remembers. Tom Graziano recently spoke with John's elementary school principal, Paul Nilsen, on a visit with StoryCorps.

Marge Klindera spent decades teaching home economics to kids in Illinois. But in the early 1980s, after she had retired, she was looking for another way to pass along her knowledge.

That's when she decided to join a Thanksgiving call center — where thousands of panicked home cooks call every year, hoping for last-minute guidance in cooking their dinner.

"We like to say we kind of deal with turkey trauma," Klindera, now 79, tells her longtime coworker, Carol Miller, on a recent visit with StoryCorps.

Carlos Rocha grew up in Chicago and became a gang member like his brothers. In 1998, he was arrested for weapons possession and sent to prison.

Right before he was to be released on bond, Carlos, now 40, got into a fight with another inmate and killed him, resulting in an additional 24 years behind bars.

As he was approaching 40, Bryan Echols realized he was almost half his father's age, and he became curious about the man who raised him.

"What were you like at 40?" Bryan asked his 80-year-old father, Lindberg Echols, at StoryCorps in Chicago.

"Well, I had seven kids," said Lindberg, who worked at a ceramics factory in Gilberts, Ill., to support his family, which included Bryan and his six siblings, plus two daughters from a different marriage. "And I guess I was pretty tough on the boys," he said.

"It was a relationship that got better," Bryan said.

In some families, a specific talent seems to be passed down through the generations. That could be the case for Ledo Lucietto and his daughter Anne, who share a passion for mechanical engineering.

The Luciettos owned a tool and die shop in Illinois for 50 years. Ledo's father was a mechanical engineer who emigrated from Italy. Their shop was called the Byron-Lambert Co.; they made wire forms and metal stampings.

And as a little girl, Anne was a regular in that shop, asking her grandfather, Luigi, what he was doing as he made parts.

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