Discovery Archives - 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.

 

Separated by Time and Distance, Best Friends Reunited After More Than Three Decades

Pak Yan and Joe Chan grew up in the same neighborhood in Hong Kong. They developed a close friendship, learning to ride bikes without training wheels and walking each other to school every day. Then, in 1962, Joe’s family moved to the U.S., seeking refuge amidst the Great Chinese Famine.

Pak Yan (left) and Joe Chang at a StoryCorps interview in San Francisco on September 18, 2014. By Geraldine Ah-Sue for StoryCorps.

An ocean between them, the two sent handwritten letters weekly via airmail. But after several years, as they moved and their addresses changed, the two lost contact. Pak often wondered what had become of his friend, and when he was 30 years old he also moved to the U.S. Years later—in 2000, when the internet was still relatively new—Pak decided to use Yahoo to search for his friend. He found 108 Joe Chan’s and called them one by one, leaving voice messages until he finally reached Joe on the 104th call.

“It’s like we just picked up where we left off,” Joe said. In 2014, the two men came to StoryCorps to remember their reunion.

Top Photo: Pak Yan (left) and Joe Chan (right) at Friendship Park in Richmond, CA soon after they reunited. The text on the rock reads ‘friendship’ in Chinese. 

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 November 25, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

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An Adoptee Reflects On The Mother-Daughter Bond That Carried Her Through the Loss Of Her Birth Family

In 2000, Jami Miyamoto traveled to China during the era of the “One Child” Policy to adopt a 10-month old baby girl. Originally, Jami had the name “Maya” in mind, but after spending time with her daughter, Jami stuck with her given name, Delian, and they use the shortened name of “Daily” today. 

Jami holding 10-month-old Daily in China, June of 2000. Courtesy of Jami Miyamoto.

Daily doesn’t remember when she first learned that she was adopted. Her mother has always talked openly about it. They both hope to know more about Daily’s birth family, and it’s a curiosity that reinforces their bond.

Recently, Daily and Jami came to StoryCorps to reflect on their closeness, and what it means to Daily to look into her past.

Top Photo: Daily and Jami Miyamoto in Santa Monica, CA on July 26, 2022. Courtesy of Daily Miyamoto.

Originally aired Friday, July 29, 2022, 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.

“Show ’em Jackie”: Bat Boy Remembers Being On The Field With Jackie Robinson

George Bates grew up in a family of loyal Dodgers fans. One day in 1946, on a trip to Florida, George had the opportunity to see his beloved baseball team as they were conducting Spring training in Daytona Beach.

During that training season, the Dodgers organization debuted the first African American player in Major League Baseball history, Jackie Robinson. His presence was met with mixed reception, but the Bates family wanted to cheer on the newly signed player.

While filing into the stands, George and his brother, Robert, were spotted at random and asked to fill-in as bat boys for the game. George’s father, Robert Bates, Sr., filmed his sons at work, and ended up capturing the oldest known footage of Robinson as a professional player.

At StoryCorps, George sat down with his son, Bill Bates, to remember supporting Robinson’s first steps to making history.

Bill and George Bates, around the time Bill first saw the footage. Courtesy of Bill Bates.

More information about the Bates’ story can be found on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. Film footage courtesy of Bill Bates.

Top Photo: George Bates interacting with Jackie Robinson during a Spring training game in 1946. Courtesy of Bill Bates.

Hear more about Jackie Robinson’s journey to the big leagues in Daytona Beach.

Breaking Baseball’s Color Barrier: How Jackie Robinson Inspired One Man “To Be Somebody”

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he took Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. That day is a historic marker for racial progress, but his journey to becoming the first African American player in the majors began in Daytona Beach, Florida — a year earlier.

During the spring of 1946, Robinson was a member of the Montreal Royals, the minor league club for the Dodgers, and he was in Daytona Beach to train. In the segregated South, he couldn’t play on whites-only ballfields with the rest of his team, so he practiced at Kelly Field, a local playground in the Black section of town.

It was at Kelly Field where Harold Lucas, Jr. met Jackie Robinson.

Photo of 6-year-old Harold Lucas, Jr., from 1949. Courtesy of Harold Lucas, Jr.

The Royals were preparing to play a minor league game in Sanford, Florida, but segregation laws — and a mob of threatening townsfolk — prevented Robinson from taking the field. So Black leaders in Daytona Beach stepped in, and gave Robinson a place to play — and an opportunity for Black residents to cheer for him.

Harold Lucas attended Robinson’s first game, and remembered that day at StoryCorps.

Top Photo: D’Lorah Butts-Lucas, Harold Lucas, Jr. and Darryll Lucas after their StoryCorps interview in Daytona Beach, Florida on March 21, 2022.

Hear more about Jackie Robinson’s journey to the big leagues in Daytona Beach.

Originally aired April 15, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her Name Bound Her to Her Family – and a Tragic Chapter of Ukraine’s History

Halyna Hrushetsky was born in Soviet Ukraine during World War II, but spent her earliest years in a German labor camp with her family. After the war ended, her parents wanted to avoid being repatriated to the Soviet Union. With the aid of the Red Cross, they moved the family to the French Alps.

Halyna spent much of her youth tending to the family’s French farm. Despite the idyllic setting, she noticed her mother always seemed afraid for her safety. Eventually, her mother told her about the Holodomor: a genocide inflicted through Soviet agricultural policies. Several million Ukrainian men, women and children starved in the famine, including three of Halyna’s sisters.

At StoryCorps, Halyna sat down with her daughter Oryna Hrushetsky-Schiffman to remember the moment she learned more about her Ukrainian roots.

Top Photo: Halyna Hrushetsky and Oryna Hrushetsky-Schiffman at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago Illinois on September 4, 2014. By Andre Perez for StoryCorps.

Originally aired February 25, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

He Survived The Holocaust Because Of A Stranger’s Kindness

In 1941, Philip Lazowski and his family were among thousands of Jewish people sent to the Zhetel Ghetto in what was then Poland.

One day, the Lazowski family caught wind that the Nazis were killing Jewish people in the ghetto and they decided to go into hiding. But Philip, just 11 years old, was caught alone by a German soldier after helping his parents and siblings take shelter in a hideout they’d built in their apartment.

Rounded up into the Zhetel marketplace, he saw the soldiers sending children and the elderly to their deaths, but noticed they seemed to be sparing families with adults who had jobs deemed valuable by the Nazis, like doctors, tailors or cobblers.

When he was 91 years old, Rabbi Philip Lazowski came to StoryCorps with his wife, Ruth, 86, to remember a quick decision that saved his life.

Rabbi Philip and Ruth Lazowski on their wedding day, in 1955. Credit: courtesy of the Lazowski family.

 

Top Photo: Rabbi Philip Lazowski and Ruth Lazowski. Credit: courtesy of the Lazowski family.

Originally aired January 21st, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

After Facing A Difficult Coming Out, One Couple Changed A Mother’s Heart

Leslye Huff (left) and her partner, Mary Ostendorf (right), met in 1983. Leslye was open about her feelings for Mary and wasn’t shy about publicly showing her affection—even on their first date. Mary felt less comfortable with public displays of affection and had not told many people in her life about her sexuality, including her family.

When Mary introduced Leslye to her mother, Agnes, they did not immediately reveal to her the nature of their relationship, but during that meeting Leslye felt a connection with Agnes. “I liked her. She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning.”

Later that year, days before they gathered for Thanksgiving, Leslye picked up the phone and told Agnes the truth about her relationship with Mary.

At StoryCorps, Mary and Leslye discuss what happened after the phone call and how their relationship with Agnes changed in the years that followed.

Since then, Leslye and Mary moved across the country to Berkeley, California so Leslye could pursue a seminary degree. She recently graduated.

Top Photo: Leslye Huff and Mary Ostendorf.

Originally aired November 27, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition. It was rebroadcast on November 26, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Divided By Immigration Status: Brothers Reflect On Their Bond

Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Randy Villegas and his older brother Angel lived under the same roof, but in separate realities: Randy was a U.S. citizen, but Angel was undocumented.

Randy (left) and Angel (right)  at the California Speedway car show, in Fontana, CA. in 1999

In 2012, Angel became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a government program that protects nearly 700,000 immigrants brought into the United States as children from deportation. It also grants them a range of benefits, such as work permits and health insurance from employers who offer it. Despite this, every decision Angel makes is still influenced by the uncertainty of his residency status.

The two siblings came to StoryCorps in 2020, when they were in their twenties, to talk for the first time about the moment Angel realized he was undocumented, and how that affected their relationship.

Top Photo: Angel and Randy Villegas at Angel’s graduation ceremony from the New School of Architecture & Design in San Diego in 2018. Courtesy of the participants.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 23rd, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Both Ends of the Gun: How Two Men Were Brought Together in Tragedy and Forgiveness

On January 21st, 1995, 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa, a student at San Diego State University, was out delivering a pizza, when a gang tried to rob him. Things escalated, and at the urging of an older gang member, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed Tariq.

Photo: Tariq Khamisa as a high school senior. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony became the youngest person in California, at the time, to be charged as an adult; he was sent to a maximum-security prison at the age of 16.

In the years that followed, Tariq’s father, Azim, came to the realization that “there were victims on both sides of the gun.”  Soon after, he reached out to Tony’s grandfather (and guardian), Ples Felix. They developed a friendship and worked side by side to start a restorative justice foundation in Tariq’s name.

Five years after Tariq was killed, Azim went to Folsom State Prison and met Tony for the first time, and they’ve been in touch ever since. 

In 2019, at the age of 39, Tony was released from prison. He now works as a plumber and volunteers his time with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony and Azim recently spoke over StoryCorps Connect to remember the day they met, and the unexpected connection that was forged between them.

Top Photo: Tony Hicks with Azim Khamisa in 2019. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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