As we bid farewell to 2023, it’s a moment to reflect on our journey and commemorate all that we’ve achieved this year.
Throughout this year, StoryCorps embarked on an incredible adventure. We breathed life into the tales of inspirational figures through our animations, podcasts, and as always, we accompanied you every Friday morning on Morning Edition.
In 2023, we faced challenges head-on, establishing new norms and even celebrating our 20th anniversary. We remained dedicated to our mission to help us believe in each other by illuminating the humanity and possibility in us all — one story at a time. Revisit and relive some of the stories we’ve shared this year.
When Gilbert Zermeño dreamed of joining his school band, he pictured himself playing a shiny saxophone. To his dismay, his family—getting by on the $100 a week that his father made working in the nearby cotton fields—couldn’t afford one. At StoryCorps, he shares with his wife, Patricia Powers-Zermeño, how his musical journey began on a bad note, but ended in harmony.
Reverend Farrell Duncombe grew up in the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama. Once a mischievous young boy, he eventually stepped into his father’s shoes and became a pastor at his childhood church. At StoryCorps, he talked about the role models who inspired his path, including his Sunday school teacher, Miss Rosalie — known to the rest of the world as Rosa Parks.
Debra Fisher’s father Oscar was a Holocaust survivor who kept his painful memories of Auschwitz to himself to shield her from the horrors of his past. For years, Debra longed to hear his story, but she was always told the sanitized version. Years later, with her father’s health failing, Debra finally convinced him to share his experience, unleashing a flood of emotions. At StoryCorps, Debra reflects on the moment her father shared his truth, allowing her to enter the “room” of his long-buried memories.
When Sharon Adams moved back to her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the late 1990s, she needed help with fixing her house. Initially there to do electrical work, Larry Adams found himself enamored by Sharon. The two fell in love and embarked on a new undertaking: revitalizing their neighborhood one lot at a time. At StoryCorps, the couple reflected on the growth of their relationship, as well as their involvement in the community.
In a historic photograph captured on June 5, 1968, a teenager is seen kneeling on the floor, cradling Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s head moments after he was shot, in what turned out to be a successful assassination attempt. At StoryCorps, Juan Romero — the teen from the photo — remembers that night and how it changed his life.
From a Proposal to Parenthood
It’s been nearly two decades since Mike Wolmetz got down on one knee at the StoryCorps booth in Grand Central Station to propose to Debora Brakarz. Their love story was one of the first we ever broadcast on the radio back in 2004. As StoryCorps marks its 20th anniversary, we’re brought full circle as they return to share their journey—from the proposal to parenting.
One Last Interview
Jackie Miller first came to StoryCorps in 2008 with her son, Scott, to reveal the story behind his adoption. Fifteen years after that initial conversation, Jackie’s health started to decline. Realizing his mom was nearing the end of life, Scott sat down for one last interview to preserve Jackie’s wisdom.
Brotherly Love Through the Ages
The Rigano siblings — Lola, Denise, Adele, Phil, and Robbie — shared a loving home, with Robbie holding a special place in their hearts. From a young age, Robbie often found himself in amusing situations. He had a unique way of navigating life that his brother Phil affectionately referred to as “shenanigans.” In 2006, Phil took Robbie to record a conversation at the StoryCorps Mobile Tour nearby, indulging Robbie’s passion for cars in the iconic Airstream trailer. Now, 17 years later, Phil returns to StoryCorps to reflect on that memorable conversation and the joy it brought to Robbie.
Love is Limitless
A few months after their marriage in 2007, Christine Berro and Andy Keeler sat down for a conversation at StoryCorps. This was a second marriage for the couple, who had both lost a partner several years prior. 16 years later, they returned to reflect on the experience of starting a new chapter of their lives together.
A Korean War Veteran Recalls his First Day of Combat
Sergeant Daniel Moon served in two wars: first in WWII when he was just 17, and then again in the Korean War. He didn’t see combat during WWII, but his experiences during the Korean War were harrowing. He was a member of Fox Company 19th Infantry Regiment, and he sustained severe injuries during his first battle. He also witnessed the deaths of several fellow soldiers. He came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Laura Moon, to remember that day.
From College to Life Beyond
In 2016, Trey Thomas left behind his sunny hometown of Los Angeles, CA, to embrace a new chapter at Connecticut College. Similarly, Andre Thomas bid farewell to his home state of Illinois in search of adventure. Fate had a unique plan for them — they were randomly assigned as roommates. Little did they both know, their paths were about to intersect in a way that would leave a lasting mark on their lives. At StoryCorps, the former roommates reminisce about that transformative year and the profound lessons they discovered through their unique connection.
Helping The Dogs Of Chernobyl
The once thriving forests in Chernobyl became radioactive after the infamous nuclear power plant explosion that took place in 1986. Thousands of individuals were forced to leave their homes–and their pets–behind. To this day, there are still dogs living in the radioactive forest. In 2019, Stephen Quandt, an animal rescue worker, traveled to the site to provide care for these canines. At StoryCorps, Stephen remembers his unforgettable trip, as well as an unexpected gesture.
A Life in the Rodeo
What started with a 25 cent pony ride as a kid paved the way for Charlie Sampson to make history as the first Black man to win the Professional Bull Riding World Championship. Despite countless bone-breaking injuries, Charlie remained dedicated to the sport. At StoryCorps, he talks to his son, Daniel, about the risks and thrills of being a traveling cowboy.
Through Thick and Thin
Julianne Larsen was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early twenties. The weight of the diagnosis left her feeling isolated and alone. But in 2008, everything changed. Stepping into a support group in Logan, Utah, she crossed paths with Mar Fenix Nauta. What began as a friendship soon blossomed into a romance. At StoryCorps, Julianne and Mar remember the start of their romantic relationship, and how they’ve lifted each other up through the highs and lows of life.
A Split Decision
In September 2009, the Sweetwater Creek in northern Georgia flooded following several days of heavy rain. The unprecedented event killed ten people and left millions of dollars of damage in its wake. That morning, Zack Stephney was working as a shop foreman at a large trucking company located right next to the floodplain near Douglasville. A couple of months after the flash flood, he came to StoryCorps with his friend Melissa Brooks, 40, to talk about what he witnessed that day, and the split decision that saved someone’s life.
As we continue celebrating StoryCorps’ 20th anniversary, we bring you two of our favorite stories that made a strong impression on our listeners, and share updates with the participants from the last two decades.
On the Road
In the third episode of our special series celebrating two decades of StoryCorps, we’re bringing you inside the Mobile Booth—the recording studio we built in a trailer to circle the country, capturing voices that would otherwise never be recorded. Hear some of our favorite stories from the road, and from the people who haul the trailer on a never-ending road trip.
Mary Johnson-Roy first came to StoryCorps in 2011 to speak with Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son. In the latest episode from our special series celebrating StoryCorps’ 20th anniversary, we’ll share updates on a conversation none of us imagined would happen back when StoryCorps started.
The Long Way Home
Monique “Muffie” Mousseau and her partner Felipa Deleon grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in South Dakota. In this episode, they share the long and sometimes painful journey of fighting for their love, their community, and their ancestors… All while making history.
Same Train, Different Tracks
When a train ride to work veers into a life or death situation, two strangers become an important part of each other’s lives.