In honor of our 20th anniversary... Archives - StoryCorps
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As Her Memory Dims, One Remarkable Mother Remains A “Beacon of Light”

To mark StoryCorps’ 20th Anniversary we are revisiting classic conversations from the past two decades with updates from the participants.

We end this special series by catching up with one remarkable mother in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her son, Laramiun Byrd. Courtesy of Mary Johnson-Roy.

Mary Johnson-Roy lost her only child, Laramiun Byrd, to gun violence in 1993.

One night while at a party, Laramiun got into a fight with another teenager named Oshea Israel. The fight ended when Oshea shot and killed Laramiun.

A dozen years later, Mary went to the penitentiary to visit the man who murdered her son.

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson-Roy in 2011 and in 2023. By Gaspar Caro and Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Soon after Oshea finished serving a prison sentence for murder, Mary brought him to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship. We’ll also hear from them 12 years later.

Mary founded From Death to Life, an organization to help families who have lost children to gun violence, and has spent decades running support groups. But she’s had to step back a bit from her life’s work, after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her husband, Ed Roy, in Minneapolis, Minnesota  in 2023. By Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Since her diagnosis in 2021, Mary’s husband, Ed Roy, has been her main caretaker. Ed also had a son who was murdered, in fact that’s how he and Mary met. Here, they share more about Mary’s illness.

Mary’s community is rallying to help cover her medical expenses through a GoFundMe, which can be found here.

Top Photo: Oshea Israel, Mary Johnson-Roy and Ed Roy in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2023. By Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 29, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

First story aired on May 20, 2011 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

 

18 Years After Katrina, A Grocer Rebuilds His Community One Shop at a Time

To mark StoryCorps’ 20th Anniversary we are revisiting classic conversations from the past two decades with updates from the participants.

This story is from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. The neighborhood was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and was slow to recover. Almost 10 years after the storm it still didn’t have a single grocery store.

Lower Ninth Ward resident Burnell Cotlon wanted to change that. He saved money by working at fast food restaurants and dollar stores and used it to buy a dilapidated building on an empty block, and opened a neighborhood grocery. 

In 2015 he told his mother, Lillie, how his story started in the days after the flood…

 

Produce, snacks, and a picture of the building before it was renovated at ‘Burnell’s Lower Ninth Ward Market’, New Orleans, Louisiana. By Ian Spencer Cook for StoryCorps. Photo of original building courtesy of Daniel Schergen, who helped renovate it.

 

Burnell Cotlon and customers in his store in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana in September, 2023. Courtesy of Burnell Cotlon.

 

Top Photo: Lillie Cotlon and Burnell Cotlon in front of Burnell’s store, ‘Burnell’s Lower Ninth Ward Market’ in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 19, 2015. By Ian Spencer Cook for StoryCorps.

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 22nd, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

First story aired on August 8th, 2015 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

This story is featured in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, a collection that celebrates the passion, determination, and courage it takes to pursue the work we feel called to do from Penguin Books.

Mom’s Advice to Son With Tough Questions: “To Thine Own Self Be True”

To mark our 20th anniversary, we’re revisiting classic StoryCorps conversations — like this one from 2006, between a young boy and his mother.

When 12-year-old Josh Littman first interviewed his mom, Sarah Darer Littman, he came with a list of his own questions, and they were not easy. As a child, Josh had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder formerly called Asperger’s syndrome. 

Josh and Sarah returned five years later, when Josh was depressed and having a hard time in college. In 2017, Joshua and Sarah came back to StoryCorps for a third interview, to reflect on the past decade and look toward the future.

Sarah Darer Littman and Josh Littman at their StoryCorps interview in New Haven, Connecticut on August 3, 2023. By Chapin Montague for StoryCorps.

In the Fall of 2023, Josh started a graduate program in Library Sciences and History. He hopes to someday work at the Library of Congress, where all his StoryCorps interviews are housed.

 

Top Photo: Sarah Darer Littman and Josh Littman at their StoryCorps interviews in New York City, New York, in 2006, 2011 and 2017. By Emily Janssen and Michael Garofalo for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired March 17, 2006, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

 

20 Years Later A Couple Reflects On A Tender Moment Captured In The StoryCorps Booth

We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary by revisiting classic StoryCorps conversations from our first two decades – like this one between Debora Brakarz and Mike Wolmetz. 

 

Mike Wolmetz and Debora Brakarz at their wedding celebration in Long Island, NY, on June 19, 2005.                         Courtesy of Debora and Mike.

 

Debora was 26 at the time and Mike was 25. They had only been dating for three months when they came to the StoryCorps recording booth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

 

The family at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland, on August 8, 2012. Courtesy of Debora and Mike.

 

Nearly 20 years later, they returned to share an update about love, marriage, and parenthood.

 

The family during Halloween 2019 (Mike as the anonymous CIA whistleblower, Debora as Sarah Good (one of the first 3 women to be accused in the Salem Witch Trials), Luca as Spiderman Miles Morales, and Iago as DJ Marshmello). Courtesy of Debora and Mike.

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired February 14, 2004, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.