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.

At six years old, Jerry Morrison is already shooting for the stars.

"I want to live on another planet," Jerry told his uncle, Joey Jefferson, at StoryCorps in November. "There's so much sights to see: nebulas, hot Jupiters and supernova remnants. They look so beautiful."

Jefferson, 29, also fell in love with space at an early age. It started with a wind-up space shuttle toy his mother gave him when he was a kid. Today he's a mission operations engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, where he commanded the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn.

Rep. John Lewis is the last living speaker from the March on Washington, the 1963 landmark civil rights protest that culminated with Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

But before Lewis dedicated his life to fighting for racial equality, he grew up in Troy, Ala., with dreams of becoming a different kind of orator.

"When I was very young, I wanted to preach the gospel," Lewis said on a visit to StoryCorps in February 2018.

He wanted to be a minister. His nearest congregation was the family livestock.

As a young boy growing up in Minneapolis during the 1970s, Russell King knew he wasn't into the things most other boys liked.

"I didn't really like sports, and I liked to play with the girls," King, now 57, said on a visit to StoryCorps this past November. King liked dolls, but he got the message early that because he was a boy, he wasn't supposed to.

Dena Kohleriter had always planned on having a family. But when she was 36 years old and hadn't yet met the person she wanted to build one with, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She met with a reproductive endocrinologist in 2010 and gave birth to her daughter, Jori, the following year.

That it's just the two of them is what makes their family "a little bit unique," Dena tells 8-year-old Jori at StoryCorps in Dallas.

In 2015, Asma Jama was dining out with family at an Applebee's restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minn., when she was attacked by another customer. Jama, a Somali American, was wearing a hijab and speaking Swahili when a woman in the next booth demanded she speak English.

The woman, Jodie Burchard-Risch, then hit Jama in the face with a glass beer mug. Burchard-Risch pleaded guilty to felony assault charges, admitted she acted out of bias and served time in jail for assault.

Drew Lanham grew up in Edgefield County, S.C., on the farm his grandfather built in the 1920s.

Lanham, now 54, says his father felt a responsibility to stay on the land and care for the animals and crops planted there. "I saw my father, in large, through the land, and I saw the land as my father's heart," he said on a visit to StoryCorps earlier this month.

To Lanham, that family land was intertwined with his fascination for the critters around him.

Jessica Kibblewhite grew up the daughter of an astronomer. Her dad, Edward Kibblewhite, invented, among other things, a system that allows scientists to take clearer pictures of stars.

Given his background, Jessica asked him for help finding clarity on a different subject: starting a family.

The world, Jessica told Edward at StoryCorps last October, seemed like an especially difficult place, and she and her husband had been struggling with the idea of bringing children into it.

She felt scared for the future.

Edward, now 75, asks her what the alternative is.

This story is part of StoryCorps' Road to Resilience project, which leverages the power of storytelling to help children cope with the death of a parent, sibling or loved one.

Sylvia Grosvold was 5 years old when her mother died by suicide.

Now 16, Sylvia recently sat down with her father, Josh Weiner, 52, at StoryCorps. They talked about the day Sylvia's mother, Kari Grosvold, died and the years that followed.

The day before Ashley Baker turned 16 years old, she moved into a Dallas motel with her mom. They were newly homeless.

Sandy, Ashley's mother, then 44, had just left a troubled marriage, scraped together what money she could and left home with Ashley.

For the next two and a half years, they were homeless. They recounted the challenges they faced during a recent StoryCorps interview in Dallas.

"One of the first places that we lived was [an] InTown Suites Hotel," said Sandy, now 54. "And there was nothing sweet about it. It was crazy bad."

Ever since they were kids growing up on Staten Island, N.Y., David Carles and his younger brother Mark Carles have been inseparable.

But in October last year, they were dealt a huge blow: Mark, now 25, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.

The brothers, just a year apart in age, still don't know how much time they'll have together; they only know that they want to spend as much of it as they can side by side.

It was 1965 when Winfred Rembert, then 19, says he was almost killed by a group of white men.

"I'm 71. But I still wake up screaming and reliving things that happened to me," Winfred, now 73, said.

During a 2017 StoryCorps interview, Winfred told his wife, Patsy Rembert, 67, about the traumatic incident he's still grappling with today.

Ever since he was a child, Michael Menta looked up to his uncle Sal Leone for becoming a Marine. Menta would eventually follow in Leone's footsteps to serve his country, enlisting in the Navy during his senior year of high school.

Their shared veteranship brought them closer.

"We spoke the same language," Menta said, when he and Leone visited StoryCorps last month.

In 1967, when Janie Bush was 19 and discovered that she was pregnant, she decided to place her baby for adoption.

But when Janie's daughter — whom she named Tracey Jane — was born with spina bifida, a potentially fatal birth defect, the planned adoptive family backed out.

Janie couldn't afford the expensive specialized care that Tracey's condition required. A social worker told Janie that her daughter might die if the child didn't receive appropriate medical care and that a state residence might be her best option.

Growing up, Arguster and Lebronze Davis and their 14 siblings worked alongside their parents on the family's 40-acre farm in Wetumpka, Ala.

The brothers remember lessons that their father, Ben Davis, passed down to them.

Now 70, Lebronze recalls how at one point, nine kids lived at home, with all eight of the brothers packed into two beds in one room.

"Two slept at the head, two slept at the feet," he says during his recent StoryCorps interview. "And there was one thing about them feet, you washed them feet before you went to bed."

Eli Brown and Natalie Guice Adams first met as third-grade classmates, when their school in Winnsboro, La., integrated in fall of 1970. Although they would share a similar academic trajectory, Brown and Adams lived very separate experiences.

"I feel like we missed knowing each other," Brown, a 56-year-old African American man, told Adams, a 57-year-old white woman, during a StoryCorps conversation recorded earlier this month.

Guy Bryant never intended to be a father figure. But over the past 12 years, he's housed more than 50 foster kids in his Brooklyn apartment.

For decades, Bryant, 61, worked with teens aging out of New York's child welfare system. His job was to find services that would make the transition to living on their own easier. But he felt that what he could accomplish at the New York City Administration for Children's Services office wasn't enough. So in 2007, he decided to become a foster parent.

This week, Jewish people observed Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.

Growing up in the 1960s, siblings Michael and Vickie Feldstein marked a different way to repent for their transgressions: Amnesty Day, which their dad, Bernie, had created.

At StoryCorps in 2011, Bernie tells them about that tradition he started in their Brooklyn household around forgiveness. A few times a year, the Feldstein children could say anything on Amnesty Day, without retribution, condemnation or discussion.

Willie Ito, 85, wanted to be an animator from the moment he first saw Snow White in theaters as a young boy.

"I remember the seven little men walking across the screen, singing, 'Heigh-ho, heigh-ho!' and I thought to myself, 'Wow, that's what I want to be.' Not one of the seven dwarves, but an animated cartoonist," Willie told his son, Vince Ito, 60, at StoryCorps last month.

StoryCorps / YouTube

In 1950s Arkansas, Olly Neal didn't care much for school. Then one day, he cut class, wandered into the library and stumbled onto a book by author Frank Yerby.

Inspired by her father's passion for military service, Denise Baken joined the Army in 1975 at age 24, looking to follow in his footsteps.

But the retired colonel didn't realize how closely her father's experience in the military mirrored her own until she faced challenges — both as a woman and an African American — over her 28 years of service.

This story is part of StoryCorps Legacy, which provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories.

Julia Medina was a single mom who raised 10 children while working a variety of jobs, including as a cleaning woman in Fresno, Calif.

"She was strong," said Maria Rivas, Julia's daughter, at StoryCorps in 2014.

Connie Mehmel and Ian Bennett have a mother-son bond forged by fire.

Connie, 68, retired from the Forest Service last week, marking the end of her 42-year career. Ian, 42, is a lieutenant with the Seattle Fire Department.

Connie became a firefighter when she was a young mother in the 1970s. At the time, the Forest Service was working to recruit more women to join its ranks.

Tom Gasko loves vacuum cleaners. He not only repairs them, he has a collection of hundreds of vintage and modern models, which are on display in a museum and repair shop in Rolla, Mo.

His fascination with vacuum cleaners began early. It started when he was a toddler, with his mother's Rainbow cleaner. At 6, he began repairing his neighbors' broken vacuums.

For nurses Kristin Sollars and Marci Ebberts, work is more than just a job.

"Don't you feel like you're a nurse everywhere you go?" Sollars, 41, asked Ebberts, 46, on a visit to StoryCorps in May.

"I mean, let's be honest, every time we get on a plane you're like, E6 didn't look good to me. Keep an eye out there."

Sollars and Ebberts have grown so close while working together that they've come to call themselves "work wives." They first met in 2007, working side by side in the intensive care unit at Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Pedro Lopez was in seventh grade when a rumor began to spread through his school in 2008: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were raiding Agriprocessors, the meatpacking plant where his parents worked, in his small hometown of Postville, Iowa.

Editor's note: This story contains language that some listeners may find offensive.

To siblings Flip and Christine Cuddy, Susan Ahn Cuddy was "Mom."

But she was also a Korean American lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who trained pilots to shoot down enemies during World War II.

It wasn't until historian John Cha's biography of Susan was published in 2002 that her children learned about many of their mother's accomplishments.

When Elizabeth Coffey-Williams first came out to her family as transgender in the late 1960s, the language of gender identity wasn't what it is today.

"A lot of the words that they have today, like transgender and non-binary, they didn't have them," Elizabeth, who was in her early 20s at the time, told her niece Jennifer Coffey in a recent StoryCorps interview.

Five years ago, Ferguson, Mo., erupted.

A Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man, in what the U.S. Department of Justice would later rule as self-defense.

After Brown was killed on Aug. 9, 2014, protesters took to Ferguson's streets, chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot!"

In the days of protests that followed, strangers Jamell Spann and Elizabeth Vega marched to the Ferguson Police Department to demand justice.

Amanda Farrell struggled with mental illness for much of her life.

When she was 18, she jumped in a lake because a voice in her head told her to. EMTs pulled her out and treated her for hypothermia. She was later placed in a psychiatric ward and committed by the state.

"Living in a cemented room with nothing but a pad on the floor, there was absolutely no hope," she said. "I was told that I was a lifer."

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

Walter Dixon had been married for just five days when he shipped off to Korea for his second war deployment.

About a year later, at age 22, he was declared dead. When his obituary was published in the local paper, his wife back home in Waynesville, Mo., had no way of knowing that the news was premature.

In reality, Dixon was alive behind enemy lines.

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