“I Want to be Remembered as a Person Who Cared”: A 93-Year-Old Retired Nurse Looks Back on Her Service
Ruth Owens has lived her whole life in the mountains of rural Tennessee. She worked as a nurse in the area for over four decades, eventually retiring when she was 85 years old.
Now 93, she sat down at StoryCorps with her grandson, James Taylor, who, along with several of her kids and grandkids, followed in Ruth’s footsteps to become a nurse.
They begin by talking about Ruth’s childhood in the late 1930s and how she eventually found her calling.
Photo: Ruth Owens with her grandson, James Taylor, in April of 2019 at their StoryCorps recording in Cookeville, TN. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.
Originally aired March 20, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.
This interview was recorded in partnership with Independent Lens and WCTE as part of a project to record stories about health and access to care in rural communities.
Andy Downs and Angelia Sheer
On Oct 4, 1971, George Giffe, a 35-year-old Tennessee man suffering from mental illness, hijacked a charter plane at gunpoint from the Nashville airport. He also claimed to be in possession of a bomb.
Running low on fuel, the plane’s pilot landed in Jacksonville, FL, where the FBI was waiting. After a brief standoff, Giffe killed the two hostages who remained onboard before turning the gun on himself.
One of the two was Brent Downs—the pilot of the plane.
At StoryCorps, Brent’s son Andy (pictured above with his mother Janie and his father) spoke with Angelia Sheer, the daughter of the man who killed his father.
This tragedy helped shape the way in which law enforcement subsequently handled hijackings after a federal appeals court ruled in 1975 that the FBI acted negligently when agents ignored the safety of the people onboard (the plane is pictured above sitting on the tarmac in Jacksonville, FL).
Originally aired October 2, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.