Colorado – StoryCorps

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.

The Long Path to Healing after Columbine

April 20, 2019 marks twenty years since tragedy struck Littleton, Colorado.

That morning, two students opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 13 people and themselves.

While then-sophomore Lauren Cartaya escaped the school quickly, her older brother Zach was stuck inside the building with many of his classmates – hiding in an empty classroom.

Two decades later, the Cartaya siblings came to StoryCorps to remember the day that changed both of their lives.

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Top photo: The Cartaya family photographed by Life Magazine after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Courtesy of Ray Ng.
Bottom photo: Zach Cartaya and Lauren Cartaya at their StoryCorps interview in Littleton, CO in March 2019. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 19, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Teenage Romance, Rekindled After Three Decades

It was the spring of 1981 in Louisiana. Liz Barnez was 16 and Lori Daigle was 17. They met while playing on competing high school sports teams. When they joined the all-star softball team that summer, their friendship blossomed into something more.

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At StoryCorps in Fort Collins, Colorado, Liz and Lori sat down to reflect on their teenage romance, and how they reunited nearly 30 years later.

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They married in 2015 after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. That was more than 30 years after their first kiss.

Top photo: Lori Daigle and Liz Barnez at StoryCorps in Fort Collins, Colorado. Photo by Jacqueline Van Meter for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Liz Barnez and Lori Daigle in the summer of 1981. Photo courtesy of Lori Daigle.
Bottom photo: Robert Herman, Lori Daigle, Liz Barnez, and Haley Daigle, from left to right, at Liz Barnez and Lori Daigle’s wedding in 2015. Photo by Kris Harmon and courtesy of Lori Daigle.

Originally aired March 8, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Strangers Talk in Hopes of Bridging Their Political Divides

Here at StoryCorps, we’re used to hearing conversations between two people who know and love one another.

In this story, we eavesdrop on a conversation that’s a little bit different. It takes place between two strangers, and was recorded as part of One Small Step, our new initiative that brings people together from opposite sides of the political divide.

In summer of 2018, Tiffany Briseño and Israel Baryeshua met for the first time in Denver to have this discussion.

Photo: Tiffany Briseño and Israel Baryeshua pose at their One Small Step interview in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2018. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 9, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Soldier on Suffering from PTSD and Finding a Home in Fashion

Army Specialist Duane Topping served three tours in Iraq before medically retiring in 2012.

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Although he comes across as a tough guy with his tattoos and leather jacket, while deployed he found comfort from an unlikely place. Duane came to StoryCorps with his wife, Jamie Topping, to recall the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life while struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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Today, Duane and Jamie run a successful design house out of Denver, Colorado. In September, they returned home from their first official show at New York Fashion Week.

Top photo: Jamie and Duane Topping pose during their StoryCorps interview in the Topping Designs studio in Wheat Ridge, Colorado on May 17, 2018. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Duane Topping poses in Kuwait while deployed as an Army Specialist in 2006, during his second deployment to Iraq. Courtesy of Duane Topping. 
Bottom photo: Duane Topping works at his design studio in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 6, 2018, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.