Veronica Fischmann – StoryCorps
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Commemorating the Lives Lost During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In recognition of this unprecedented time and the many lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, StoryCorps would like to create a space for reflection and remembrance.

StoryCorps invites families and friends to record a conversation celebrating the life and legacy of loved ones who have died. Each conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress, where family members can access these memories for generations to come.

Your conversations can center around memories of the person who has died — what they mean to you, how they changed you, or anything else you’d like to share. You might describe the person’s character, what brought them joy, or the impact they had on your life. You may complete your tribute by uploading photos as well.

We hope these conversations can bring comfort and space for reflection by helping families and communities mourn. We acknowledge that people process loss in different ways and on different timetables and hope this guide can be helpful as you consider recording a memorial conversation.


Preparing Yourself for a Memorial Conversation

• There is no right or wrong way to have this conversation. All feelings are welcome.

• Be curious and open to surprises. Conversations about grief can go in unexpected directions.

• What you discuss is up to you. You don’t have to share anything that you don’t wish to talk about.

• Listen closely to one another. Repeating back what your partner says can be affirming for them and helpful in forming your next question.

• It’s okay to move on from certain questions, have moments of silence throughout your conversation or try recording another day.

• Allow your partner to talk about their experiences in their own words; try asking general, open-ended questions that don’t assume answers.

• Remember to check in with each other before, during, and after your conversation.


Suggested Questions for COVID-19 Memorial Conversations

Here are some questions to ask, though we also welcome you to make up your own. The person you record with will naturally shape the direction of the conversation.

• What advice would you offer to others who are going through this experience?

• What do you miss most about _____________?

• Do you have one or two favorite memories of _____________?

• Is there anything else you want the world to know about _____________?

Download (PDF): Access more resources for recording a COVID-19 memorial, including additional suggested questions, in this printable guide.

How to Record a Memorial Conversation

  1. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable speaking about your loved one, and set aside time to record an intentional conversation. Together, review our list of memorial questions, and choose 5 to 10 to begin your conversation. Decide on a date and time to record.
  2. If you two are social distancing, record on StoryCorps Connect. If you are physically together, record with the StoryCorps App. You’ll need an account to start, so create one ahead of time.
  3. Discuss the privacy settings with your partner. Your interview may be public, private, or available only to the StoryCorps online community. You can agree ahead of time; you can also choose after finishing your conversation. Additionally, you’ll be able to change your privacy settings at any time.
  4. Start the memorial by sharing your names and the date. Then introduce the name of the person you’re remembering, their relationship to you and the other person recording, and when and where they died. For example, “My name is Rhonda Petrovic, and my name is Jovan Petrovic, and we’re recording on June 24, 2020. Today we are remembering our mother, Dragana Petrovic. She passed away from COVID-19 on May 19, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York.”
  5. Continue by asking questions of one another and sharing important memories. You can find additional interview tips below.
  6. After your interview, enter your summary, title, and keywords, including the keywords COVID MEMORIALS and your loved one’s name.
  7. Thank your partner for sharing this experience with you. Share your memorial with people who knew your loved one and might want to listen to the conversation. You can also share your memorial on social media, and tag #COVIDMEMORIALS and @StoryCorps.

 


Selected Stories About Loss

Watch, listen to, and share the stories below about loss and love:

story
"I heard her say, 'Don’t you be no sad mama for my grandbaby!'"
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Walking in a Mother’s Legacy

Sada Jackson, who lost her mother, Ileana Watson, to breast cancer, just before becoming a mother herself, sits down with her mother’s best friend to look back.
Read the full transcript here.

story
“I thought “you know if you don't try, you’ll always regret it”. So I wrote her a letter…”
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The Risk That Led Him To The Love Of His Life

Eddie Chang talks to his youngest daughter, Tria, about the week that sparked a romance that would last four decades, and about all that he still loves about his late wife, E. F. Wen.
Read the full transcript here.

 

story
"His hands were those of someone who worked since the age of six."
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His Grandfather, the Gardener

Santiago Arredondo honors his grandfather, Jose Guadalupe Enrique Sanchez, whose portrait he has tattooed on his arm.
Read the full transcript here.

story
“It’s really surprising the amount of life lessons you can learn in a kitchen if you have the right teacher.”
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A Grandmother’s Wisdom

Chloe Longfellow remembers the happy memories and life lessons taught to her by her grandmother, many of which took place in the kitchen.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Talking About the Murder of George Floyd & the Black Lives Matter Demonstrations

In response to the events of spring 2020, StoryCorps aims to create a space for reflection around the murder of George Floyd and the demonstrations that followed. Each conversation recorded will be archived at the Library of Congress, where future generations can listen to and learn from this moment in the struggle for racial justice.

People process these events in different ways and on different timetables. People may feel energized, activated, angry, cynical, or every shade in between. We welcome the entire constellation of emotion and perspective. Regardless of circumstance, StoryCorps strives to provide a safe environment to share your stories.

To anyone who believes they will benefit from reflecting with another on this moment in American history, we invite you to record with us. We hope this will result in the sharing of wisdom from one generation to the next, reflection on how one’s race influences their life as an American, and reflection on what “America” means to you and what you hope it can be. We honor the opportunity to hold, preserve, and share your story.

Overview of the Interview Process

Here are the steps to record. You can also access them, along with suggested questions, recording pairings, and framing for your conversation in this downloadable document.

  1. Choose a person in your life with whom you’d like to share a reflective discussion on the topic.
  2. Familiarize yourself with StoryCorps Connect or with our App. On each platform, you can review our question list and hoped-for outcomes, and decide on which questions you’ll ask one another. Feel free to create your own questions as well.
  3. Agree on a time when you will meet for your interview and enjoy your conversation.
  4. When filling out your post-interview information form, tag the interview with the keyword “George Floyd Protests 2020
  5. Share your interview with friends and family or on social media.

 

 

Download (PDF): More Resources for Talking About the Murder of George Floyd & the Black Lives Matter Demonstrations

Suggested Questions To Start Your Conversation

Here are some questions to ask, though we also welcome you to make up your own. The person you record with will naturally shape the direction of the conversation. We encourage intergenerational pairings: someone who is older and has had experiences that they are willing to share with someone who is younger. We also invite you to have a conversation with a peer or friend with whom you have shared experiences that impacted you both.

Click here for even more question suggestions.

 

 

 

Selected Stories

Watch, listen to, and share stories about racism experienced by Black Americans in these animations:

Traffic Stop

Note: The audio contains graphic descriptions of violence and the web post with the transcript contains a graphic photograph.
Alex Landau, an African American man, was raised by his adoptive white parents to believe that skin color didn’t matter. When Alex was pulled over by Denver police officers one night in 2009, he lost his belief in a color-blind world—and nearly lost his life.
Read the full transcript here.

A More Perfect Union

When Theresa Burroughs came of voting age, she was ready to cast her ballot—but she had a long fight ahead of her. During the Jim Crow era, the board of registrars at Alabama’s Hale County Courthouse prevented African American people from registering to vote. Undeterred, Theresa remembers venturing to the courthouse on the first and third Monday of each month, in pursuit of her right to vote.
Read the full transcript here.

Lessons Learned

From the first roll call of the 1964 school year, William Lynn Weaver was targeted by white teachers at the Tennessee high school he and thirteen other black students integrated. A few weeks later, Weaver, a former high achiever, brought home a failing report card. What happened next still moves him.
Read the full transcript here.

School’s Out

Reverend James Seawood grew up in the 1950s in Sheridan, Arkansas, and attended an all-black school. The town’s main employer and landlord was a lumber mill. Following the federal mandate to integrate the public schools, the mill forced its African American employees and tenants out of town. As the population diminished, James’ mother became his school’s principal, janitor, and whatever else was needed.
Read the full transcript here.

Silvia’s Legacy

Ellaraino experienced a common teenage reaction when she learned she’d have to leave Los Angeles to spend the summer in Louisiana with her great-grandmother, Silvia. Less common was Ellaraino’s realization that Silvia had lived through the Civil War, and had a lot to teach her great-granddaughter about the true meaning of freedom.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Celebrate the #Classof2020 with StoryCorps

Who were you when you started school?
Who are you now?
Who helped you get there?

Graduation is going to look a little different this year. As a way to help celebrate the achievements of students everywhere, StoryCorps is encouraging them to record a StoryCorps conversation with one of the people who helped them reach this exciting milestone.

Record their stories

Invite the students in your life to record a StoryCorps story with one of the people who helped them reach this exciting milestone.

Students’ interviews will be archived at the Library of Congress, becoming part of American history. Hundreds of years from now, future generations will listen in.

Great Questions Are a Great Place To Start

Not sure where to start? Here are some Great Questions to ask. You can download the full list here, use one of the selected questions below, or make up your own!

 

 

Stories Celebrating Milestones and the People Who Helped Along the Way

Listen and share from our selection of stories:

Lessons Learned

From the first roll call of the 1964 school year, Dr. William Lynn Weaver was targeted and harassed by the faculty of his previously all-white high school. Then a former teacher stepped in and saved his life.
Read the full transcript here.

Double Major

When Wil Smith enrolled as a freshman in college, he brought an unusual roommate with him — his infant daughter. Wil and Olivia look back together on their days as college roommates.
Read the full transcript here.


Growing up, it was rare for Raymond Blanks to have teachers who looked like him — until he walked into Sean Lloyd’s 7th grade classroom. Now a middle school math teacher, Raymond tells Sean how he influenced Raymond’s life’s work.

 

story
"Everywhere we went my mother would make sure that they enrolled us in school."
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Everywhere We Went, My Mother Would Make Sure That They Enrolled Us In School

Lourdes Villanueva talks to her son Roger about growing up in a family of migrant workers, and the dedication and hard work she put in to get her GED—and her desire to graduate before her own children got their diplomas.
Read the full transcript here.

story
"I told you that one day, you were going to go here to Stanford."
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I Told You That One Day, You Were Going to Go Here to Stanford

Francisco Preciado, who dreamed of one day becoming a teacher but was forced to drop out of school due to financial demands, and his son Frankie came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship and their time together at Stanford — one as a maintenance man, the other as a student.
Read the full transcript here.

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