Colorado Archives - StoryCorps

After Losing Everything to a Wildfire, A Couple Rebuilds

Ron and Julie Lynam had long dreamed of retiring in the Colorado mountains. As high school teachers living in a college town, the couple saved and planned for years.

Finally, after looking at dozens of properties, they bought a small home surrounded by a pristine pine forest.

Ron and Julie Lynam’s home in the aftermath of the High Park fire in 2012. Courtesy of Ron Lynam. 

Just a few weeks after moving into their new home, Julie awoke one Saturday morning to a disaster; one of the biggest fires in state history was barreling towards them.

Ron Lynam by the barn he built using burned timber salvaged from their property. By Zanna McKay for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Julie and Ron Lynam at their home near Bellvue, Colorado on September 20, 2023. By Jo Corona 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 May 31, 2024 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Mother And Daughter Remember How A Thunderstorm Transformed Their Lives

The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is less than one in a million, according to the CDC.

But that’s exactly what happened to Donna Salemink the summer of 2014.

Donna was solo parenting her two teenagers in Colorado, when a freak accident altered her life forever. 

She came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Melissa, to remember the split second when everything changed. 

Melissa Salemink and Donna Salemink in Lafayette, Colorado in 2018. Photo courtesy of Donna Salemink.


Top Photo: Donna Salemink and Melissa Salemink at their StoryCorps interview in Loveland, Colorado on September 19, 2023. By Zanna McKay 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 October 20, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Life In The Rodeo: A Bull Riding Champion Looks Back

It was a summer day in 1968 when a traveling carnival pitched its tent just outside South Central, Los Angeles. Then 11-year-old Charlie Sampson visited with his Boy Scout troop. He remembers the monkeys, bears and snakes. But it was the pony ride that really caught his attention.

“I gave the man a quarter to ride the ponies. Went around five times and that was the beginning of a lifestyle that I never dreamed of,” he said.

Charlie would later take a job cleaning horse stables in exchange for riding lessons. Eventually, a group of older cowboys took him under their wing and showed him how to rope and ride bulls. Years later, in 1982, Charlie became the first Black man to win the Professional Bull Riding World Championship.


 Charlie Sampson riding a bull in 1984. Bern Gregory, courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. 1999.025.2422.33.

He came to StoryCorps with his son, Daniel Sampson, to talk about life as a father and a traveling cowboy.

Top Photo: Charlie Sampson and his son Daniel Sampson at their StoryCorps interview in Denver, Colorado on May 30, 2023. By Tamekia Jackson for StoryCorps.

Transcending Blindness, a Marathon Runner Thanks His Daughter for Her Support

Jason Romero suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that causes progressive blindness. In 2015, he was forced to stop driving and quit his job, which plunged him into a deep depression. But Jason was most concerned about how it would impact his family. “The most important thing to me is to be a good dad to you and your brother and your sister, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it if I couldn’t see,” he said.

Jason Romero and his youngest daughter, Sofia Romero, in San Diego, California in August 2022. Courtesy Jason Romero.

Jason turned to running as a way to prove that he could push his body past what people thought possible. After becoming an ultramarathon runner, he had the seemingly crazy idea of being the first blind person to run across the United States. So he hit the road.

Jason Romero in his 2016 run across the United States. Courtesy Jason Romero.

In 2016, he set off on a 3,063 mile, 59 day run from Los Angeles to New York City. But while he was away, he thought about his family – especially his youngest daughter, Sofia.

Top Photo: Sofia Romero and Jason Romero in Denver, Colorado on January 4, 2023. By Esther Honig for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 6, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 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.  

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


Ten Years Later: Remembering Aurora Shooting Victim Alex Sullivan

On July 20, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. One of the victims was Alex Sullivan. He was celebrating his birthday that night — something he had done since he was a small child. Alex and a group of friends planned to see a midnight showing of the latest Batman film, just as he turned 27.

His parents, Tom and Terry Sullivan, came to StoryCorps five years after his murder, and then again near the 10th anniversary of his death, to remember Alex, and share how they honor him and other victims of gun violence in the country.

Terry Sullivan holds a photo of her son, Alex. 
Top Photo: Tom and Terry Sullivan at their StoryCorps interview in Centennial, CO on July 9, 2022. By Annie Russell 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 July 15, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Columbine Survivor On Going Home To Teach

Warning: the audio version of this story contains strong language.

Mandy Cooke was a sophomore at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, when two students opened fire at the school, killing 13 people and themselves.

Mandy later became a teacher back at Columbine.

At StoryCorps in Denver, Mandy sat down with Paula Reed — her former teacher from Columbine — to talk about the two decades that followed, and the lasting impact of the shooting.

Originally broadcast May 27, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Paula Reed (L) and Mandy Cooke (R) at StoryCorps in Denver, CO. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.

“I don’t break”: How Two People Found Strength in One Another After Police Violence

In 2009, Alexander Landau was brutally beaten during a routine traffic stop by police in Denver, Colorado. His charges were dropped, and he later won a settlement from that city.

Years later, Nina Askew — another Colorado resident — had her arm broken in three places during an arrest. Her charges later resulted in a conviction of resisting arrest, and a hung jury on second degree assault of a police officer. 

Nina knew of Alexander from the media coverage of his case, and while their cases had very different outcomes, Nina was looking for moral and logistical support as she went through her trial.

Although Nina first reached out to Alexander for legal advice, she found something deeper in their connection. 

Top Photo: Alexander Landau and Nina Askew at their StoryCorps interview in Denver, Colorado on July 17, 2021. By Nick Sullivan for StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 12, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“There Was Always Music In The House”: Memories Of Luis M. Moreno, A Father And Prolific Songwriter

When Luis M. Moreno was around six years old, he encountered a fayuquero or traveling vendor who had a little guitar up for sale. The family story goes that Luis wanted the guitar and the vendor, seeing that Luis was just a small child, told him the guitar was his if he proved he could play it. After fiddling with the strings for a while, Luis played a little tune, and the vendor gave it to him.

This moment marked the beginning of a lifetime of music for Luis. 

He drew inspiration from all the things he lived. Born in 1899, he became an orphan at the age of 8 and grew up seeing other musicians perform in the cantinas or taverns of his native Mexico. Then, the family tales say he was conscripted to fight in the Mexican Revolution, and after being shot in battle, he immigrated to the United States, settling down in California in the first half of the 20th Century. 

Photo: A young Luis M. Moreno

That is where he met his wife and creative partner, Carmen Moreno. Together they were known as Los Moreno or El Dueto de los Moreno, famous for the Mexican folk music they performed on the radio and in venues throughout the Los Angeles area.

More than a century after their parents’ birth, his daughters, Rosemary Selzer and Carmencristina Moreno, now 67 and 81, came to StoryCorps to share their memories of growing up surrounded by music, and the bittersweet legacy that their father left behind.

Photo: Carmencristina Moreno and Rosemary Selzer in March 2021
Top Photo: Carmen Moreno and Luis M. Moreno performed under the name of Los Moreno or El Dueto de los Moreno

Originally aired March 26, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Our Own Mountains to Climb: How A Personal Trainer Inspired a 90-Year-Old to Embrace His True Self

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard from 90-year-old Kenneth Felts, a man who amidst quarantine, decided it was time to confront a truth he’d been hiding for more than 60 years. 

After coming out — first to his daughter, then publicly — Ken wanted to talk to the one person who inspired him the most: his personal trainer, David Smith.

The two met back in 2013, at Ken’s local rec. center in Colorado. From water aerobics to weightlifting, what started as a professional relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship; one that ultimately helped Ken find the strength to be exactly who he was.

Top Photo: David Smith and Ken Felts in Denver, Colorado in 2013. Courtesy of David Smith.
Bottom Photo: David Smith and Ken Felts at a training session in 2017. Courtesy of David Smith.

Originally aired December 11, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

How One Soldier’s Halloween Shenanigans In Iraq Were “All Worth It”

Former Army Specialist Garett Reppenhagen has always loved Halloween — for the tricks as much as the treats. Not even the military could curb his penchant for pranks.

In 2004, three years after he enlisted, his team was sent to Iraq. Despite the stresses of that deployment, when October 31 rolled around, Garett still managed to find a way to get into the holiday spirit.

Over StoryCorps Connect, Garett and his former bunkmate, Thom Cassidy, remembered the creative costume choice that almost landed Garett in hot water: dressing up as his team leader.

Top Photo: Former Army Specialist Garett Reppenhagen at his home in Colorado Springs, CO. Courtesy of Garett Reppenhagen.
Bottom Photo:  Garett Reppenhagen during his 2004 deployment to Iraq. Courtesy of Garett Reppenhagen.

Originally aired October 31, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.