“This Isn’t Normal At All”: A Mother And Son Reflect On A Culture Of Mass Shootings
In 2018 Dezmond Floyd, then 10 years old, came to StoryCorps with his mother Tanai Benard-Turner to talk about what goes through his mind during what was becoming increasingly familiar, active shooter drills at school.
(L) Tanai Benard-Turner and her son Dezmond Floyd at their StoryCorps interview in 2018, (R) Dezmond Floyd and his mother Tanai Benard-Turner at their StoryCorps interview in 2022. By Jud Esty-Kendall and Danny Reeves for StoryCorps.
Four years passed and Dezmond and Tenai, from Houston, Texas, were still having conversations about the effects of gun violence on American children.
After the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, mother and son returned to StoryCorps to reflect on the emotional impact these drills and shootings are having on children across the country.
Top Photo: Dezmond Floyd and his mother Tanai Benard-Turner at their StoryCorps interview in Houston, Texas on June 4th, 2022. By Danny Reeves for StoryCorps.
Originally aired June 10th, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Neighbor’s Promise — A Blended Family Remembers Their Journey
In 2016, Glendon “Junior” Booth and his three young kids moved into an apartment building for families facing homelessness in Austin, Texas. Soon after, Jennifer Hidrogo, a single mom of five, became his neighbor.
The two families started leaning on each other. Jen’s kids would play with Junior’s, and the parents would stop and chat, while leaning up against their doors.
But within the year, Junior was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Jen came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Charlee, and her neighbor’s daughter, Lily Rose, to talk about what happened next.
Kristopher Rios, Desiree Martinez- Iturralde, Emma Booth, LilyRose Hidrogo-Booth, Jennifer Hidrogo, Kayla Rios, Charlee Rios, Dalton Booth, and Azriel Rios the day of the adoption ceremony at the Travis County CourtHouse on August 16th, 2019.
Top Photo: Charlee Rios, Jennifer Hidrogo, and LilyRose Hidrogo-Booth at their StoryCorps interview in Austin, TX on March 13th, 2022. For StoryCorps.
Originally aired June 3rd, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Son Took Up His Distant Father’s Instrument to Honor His Military Service
Army Sergeant First Class Jodi Walz served in the United States Army band for 30 years — 12 of them in active duty and 17 years in the reserves. Music defined his life, in and out of military service.
Gena Gear and her son, Ryan Walz, have vivid memories of Jodi on stage playing trumpet, and how much he enjoyed performing as a singer. Gena remembers him during the initial years of their romantic relationship as a quick-witted, charming man, and also as one who seemingly lost his way after leaving active duty.
Jodi Walz with Ryan (right) and his younger brother Tyler in Minnesota around 2005. Courtesy of Gena Gear.
But despite his struggles, his family honors his pride for and commitment to the military.
After Jodi died from COVID in November 2020, Ryan came to StoryCorps with Gena to reflect on his father’s service and legacy, and talk about his decision to play taps at his funeral.
Jodi Walz in the reserves in Minnesota, around 2012. Courtesy of Gena Gear.
Top Photo: Gena Gear and Ryan Walz at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, MN, on May 5, 2022.
Originally aired May 28, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.
“We Are Needed”: A Counselor At Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Shares Her Story
In the mid-1990s, Miss Betty Thompson retired from her job in state government, and started a second career working at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a counselor. By 2004, it was the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.
Often faced with incredibly long distances to travel, and protesters on the ground upon their arrival, Betty helped all those who walked through the doors.
In 2022, the clinic would become the center of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Roe v. Wade.
Betty worked there at the clinic for almost 25 years, but it was her own experiences as a teenager that brought her to the work.
In 2016, she came to StoryCorps to share her story.
Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in front of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.
Originally aired May 20th, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
These Memories Shaped His Journey Into Hospice Work
Having built a career in hospice care, Hajime Issan Koyama, known simply as Issan, has many experiences with death, and with bringing comfort to people in their final moments.
He made his way into a caregiving role after he found himself at the epicenter of the 1980s AIDS epidemic in New York City, where he witnessed many of his friends and colleagues die.
But the experiences that laid the foundation for his concept of death and dying go back to his childhood growing up in Japan, and his favorite grandmother.
He came to StoryCorps July of 2015 with his husband, Paul Boos, to share those memories.
Paul Boos and Hajime Issan Koyama at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on July 17, 2015. By Mitra Bonshahi for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Hajime Issan Koyama at his StoryCorps interview in New York City on July 17, 2015. By Mitra Bonshahi for StoryCorps.
Originally aired May 13, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
“She Had Dreams In Life”: A Remembrance Of Latasha Harlins
We should note that the audio version of this story contains a graphic description of violence.
On April 29th, 1992, the city of Los Angeles erupted into 6 days of uprisings. Over 60 people died, over 2,000 were injured, there was widespread theft and property damage to the area, and thousands of residents took to the streets in protest — the cause widely known to be the acquittal of the four police officers who brutally assaulted Rodney King.
But there was another case that also grabbed the attention of Los Angeles at that time; the killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins. On March 16, 1991, Harlins was shot and killed by a store clerk who accused her of stealing.
Even though Latasha’s killer was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter, a judge allowed her to avoid jail time. It was among the catalysts for the Los Angeles Riots.
Latasha’s sister, Dr. Christina Rogers, and her brother, Vester Acoff, were 8 and 10 years old, respectively, when she was killed. The three children were being raised by their grandmother, Ruth Harlins.
Latasha’s cousin, Shinese Harlins-Kilgore (left), with Latasha Harlins (right) in 1983. Courtesy of Christina Rogers.
Vester, Ruth, and Christina sat down for StoryCorps, more than 30 years later, to remember Latasha.
In 1992, the family started the Latasha Harlins Foundation in her name. They aim to make lasting change for low-income and Black families and children in the Los Angeles area.
Latasha Harlins as an early teen. Courtesy of Christina Rogers.
Vietnam Separated Them, But These Brothers Stand Side By Side
Ron Amen grew up in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1950s. He belonged to a large and close family, including his brother, Alan. They were raised to look out for one another, and it was a lesson they took very seriously.
Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.
In 1965, when the U.S. started committing combat troops to Vietnam, Ron was in one of the initial waves to be drafted for battle. This was the first time the brothers had been separated. But despite the distance the war brought, Ron and Alan kept their bond alive.
Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.
The brothers came to StoryCorps to reflect on their relationship, and to remember the effect war had on them — and their brotherhood.
Top photo: Alan and Ron Amen at their StoryCorps interview in Dearborn, Michigan on August 10, 2012. By Erin Dickey for StoryCorps.
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 April 23, 2022 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.
“We’re Just Big Guys Dancing”: How One Man Found His Calling As A Mavs ManiAAC
When Rob Maiden was a kid, he was a little bigger than some of his classmates. And during one summer, he shot up from 5’6” to 6’3”, becoming the tallest one in his family. His father — a huge football enthusiast — couldn’t wait to watch Rob play football.
But Rob found his calling in another sport: a hip hop dance group of self-proclaimed “beefy” men who perform during Dallas Mavericks basketball games.
Mavs ManiAACs at a Dallas Mavericks game performance. Courtesy of Daniel Jacob.
Rob came to StoryCorps with his friend Daniel Jacob, to talk about how they both ended up as part of the Mavs ManiAACs, and how Rob’s father eventually saw him do what he was “born to do.”
Top Photo: Daniel Jacob and Rob Maiden at their StoryCorps interview in Dallas, TX in 2014. Photo by Liyna Anwar for StoryCorps.
Originally aired April 22, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
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.
A New Heart And A New Path: Transplant Recipient Shares Lifelong Dream With Her Mom
When Gianna Paniagua was just a baby, she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a heart defect that led her to severe heart failure. Gianna was 14 months old when she received her first heart transplant.
Gianna with her mother, Lourdes, at the hospital after her first transplant in October 1992.
Courtesy of Gianna Paniagua.
Even with a new heart, Gianna spent most of her life in and out of hospitals. Those experiences shaped her childhood, and she remembers being surrounded by doctors for most of her life.
Gianna as a child playing doctor with her dolls. Courtesy of Gianna Paniagua.
During these countless appointments and medical procedures, Gianna was able to lean on her mom, Lourdes Matamoros. Lourdes has been by Gianna’s side for decades — including when she received her second heart transplant in 2021.
Gianna (right) in the hospital with her mom after receiving her pacemaker in 2018. Courtesy of Lourdes Matamoros.
A year after receiving a new heart, Gianna came to StoryCorps to speak with her mom about her plans for the future.
Top Photo: Lourdes Matamoros and Gianna Paniagua at their StoryCorps interview in Nashville, Tennessee on March 17, 2022. Taken for StoryCorps.
Originally aired April 8, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.