Jenn Stanley and Peter Stanley
During the 2016 presidential race, many families are finding their viewpoints incompatible with those of even their closest relatives. So rather than spend their time constantly arguing, they have agreed to just avoid discussing politics all together.
Jenn Stanley, 29, and her father, Peter, have experienced a strain on their relationship for years. Political discussions regularly leave them angry and frustrated with each other. Jenn, a self-described liberal who turns to yoga to clear her head, writes about feminist issues for various publications and produces a podcast about women’s rights. Peter, who relaxes by shooting his guns, works in construction and began voting Republican in 1980 during the Reagan revolution.
Whenever they are together and the news comes on the television, they argue.
When Jenn was younger, she considered Peter to be her best friend. She played softball—which she hated—because Peter liked baseball; he coached her team because he thought she wanted to play. But as she got older and left for college, their views grew further apart, making it difficult for them to talk about many of the things that are most important to each of them.
They came to StoryCorps to try to put their differences aside, and listen to each other’s points of view.
Originally aired November 4, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo: Peter and Jenn in 1994, courtesy of Peter Stanley.
Tariq Sheikh and Tabinda Sheikh
In 1989, Tabinda was working in a Manhattan hotel as a housekeeper. She had just immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and one day at work, she caught the eye of a fellow employee who was working behind the hotel’s front desk—Tariq Sheikh.
Tariq was also a recent immigrant, but from Pakistan, and he remembers that the first time he saw her, Tabinda was hard at work. She was still in her yellow gloves and neither spoke English too well, but after a few clumsy love notes, a relationship was born.
Tariq and Tabinda have now been married for 25 years and have a 20-year-old son, Madani Sheikh. They live in Jersey City, New Jersey, not far from the park bench they were sharing the first time Tariq realized he had fallen in love with Tabinda.
They came to StoryCorps to share the story of how they met.
Originally aired October 21, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott
Idella Hansen started driving big rig trucks in 1968 when she was just 18 years old. At the time, she was pregnant and hungry for independence so she filled a tanker with gasoline, took to the road, and to this day has not looked back. Now 66 years old, Idella has been driving for more than four decades, and her best friend is fellow trucker Sandi Talbott.
Sandi, 75, began driving alongside her husband, Jim, in 1979. They drove as partners for years until Jim’s health began to decline and Sandi took over most of the driving. After Jim’s death in 2000, Sandi continued on the road without him, and has now been behind the wheel for over three decades.
Together, Idella (top left) and Sandi (top right) have driven over 9 million miles hauling everything from missiles to tadpoles. At StoryCorps they discuss their friendship, their adventures, and why they’ll never retire.
Originally aired September 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Idella in 1996 courtesy of Idella Hansen.
Vaughn Allex and Denise Allex
This weekend marks 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Each year since, StoryCorps has commemorated the day by featuring stories from the parents, wives, husbands, coworkers, and friends of those who died on 9/11. This year we hear from Vaughn Allex, a man whose life was affected in another way.
Vaughn was working at the American Airlines ticket counter at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on the morning of September 11 checking in passengers on Flight 77. As he was wrapping up, two men who were running late for the flight came to his counter.
Before the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport security was more lax, and Vaughn did exactly what he was supposed to do — he checked both men’s IDs, asked them a few standard security questions, and then flagged their bags for extra scrutiny.
Vaughn then checked the two men in and they boarded the flight to Los Angeles.
Those two men were among the five hijackers onboard who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people including themselves.
Vaughn, who retired from the airline industry in 2008 and now works for the Department of Homeland Security, came to StoryCorps with his wife, Denise, to discuss how he has felt since learning the next day that he checked in two of the 9/11 hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77.
Originally aired September 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Illustration by Matt Huynh for StoryCorps.
Drew Cortez and Danny Cortez
Danny Cortez was the founder and pastor of the New Heart Community Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, California, in 2014 when his 16-year-old son, Drew, told him that he was gay. Up until that time, Danny’s church would either recommend celibacy or reparative therapy—a widely discredited form of treatment that identifies homosexuality as a mental disorder with the goal of converting people to heterosexuality—to congregants who identified themselves as gay or lesbian.
Even before Drew’s coming out, Danny had slowly begun to reevaluate his views on homosexuality and whether he was doing more harm than good. When his neighbor invited him to visit the HIV clinic where he worked, Danny was introduced to a community of people he had not previously known much about. This began, for him, a gradual change of heart.
Years later, as he was driving Drew to school, “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came on the radio. Danny liked it a lot but didn’t understand that it was a celebration of LGBT love. Drew, encouraged by his father’s affection for the song, then revealed to him that he was gay.
Realizing that they could no longer keep this secret from those they love, Drew posted a video online, and a week later, Danny delivered a sermon to his congregation about his changing views on homosexuality. As a result of the sermon, the Southern Baptist Convention cut ties with Danny’s church and his congregation split leading he and other members to form a separate LGBT inclusive, non-denominational church.
Danny and Drew came to StoryCorps to remember the sermon that changed their lives.
Originally aired on August 28, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition
Anthony Merkerson and Charles Jones
Charles Jones was already a father to three daughters when he found out his fourth child was going to be a boy. He was so excited by the news that even before Malik was born, Charles began plotting ways he would get the new baby into playing and loving sports—the same way his own father had done with him—even joking to others that he had already bought him New York Knicks season tickets.
When Malik was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Like many parents of children on the autistic spectrum, Charles and his wife struggled to adjust to their son’s unexpected needs, but over time, they worked together to better understand autism and Malik. Early on, Charles feared his son would be non-verbal, unable to even speak his own name or say, “I love you,” but eventually Malik, now 12 (pictured with his father at left), began talking, and according to his father, once he did, “He wouldn’t shut up.”
Charles decided to start a support group for fathers like himself to provide a space for them to feel safe sharing their feelings. Five years ago, at a New York Mets game on Autism Awareness Day, Charles met Anthony Merkerson. Anthony has two children—Elijah, 10, and Amaya, 8 (pictured with his family at left)—who are both on the autistic spectrum. After meeting Charles, Anthony joined the support group and they have since become close friends.
Charles (above right), a filmmaker, came to StoryCorps with Anthony (above left), a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority police officer, to talk about what they have learned from one another, and the concerns they have for their sons as young black men growing up in a society where they are at constant risk of being targeted and misunderstood because they are autistic.
Originally aired July 15, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Charles and Malik Jones courtesy of the Jones family.
Photo of Evelyn, Anthony, Elijah, and Amaya Merkerson courtesy of the Merkerson family.
Alice Mitchell and Ibukun Owolabi
Growing up, Alice Mitchell was always very close with her mother Rosemary Owolabi. A Nigerian immigrant as proud of her heritage as she was of her children, Rosemary would pick Alice up from school dressed in vibrantly colored garments and head-wraps.
When Alice was 14, her mother died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest just two weeks after giving birth to her youngest child, a boy she named Ibukunoluwa, which translates to “Blessing from God.”
Alice was immediately forced to become both sister and mother to her new brother, who they call Ibukun, and took the lead in raising him the way she believed her mother would have wanted him brought up.
Now 10 years old, Ibukun lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his father and stepmother. Over the years he has seen pictures and heard stories about his mother, but came to StoryCorps with Alice (pictured together in the player above) to talk for the first time about losing their mother.
Originally aired July 1, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: Rosemary Owolabi holding Ibukun soon after he was born in September of 2005. Photo courtesy of the Owolabi family.
Chris López and Gabe López
Chris López always knew there was something different about her youngest child Gabe. Assigned female at birth, Gabe always felt like he was a boy.
Gabe was always more comfortable in clothes traditionally worn by little boys (cargo pants and superhero shirts), but often switched back and forth between those and outfits often worn by little girls. Just after his seventh birthday, he convinced his parents to let him cut off his long hair and get a Mohawk—a haircut he had been wanting for years. This is also about the time that Gabe started dressing only as a boy and answering exclusively to “he” and not “she.”
At first, Chris was concerned that Gabe, being so young, might change his mind. She was scared of how people would treat him as he transitioned. But after seeing how Gabe responded to the changes in his hair and clothing, she felt confident that he had made the right decision.
Last summer, their family (pictured below) attended a camp for transgender, gender creative, and gender non-conforming youth in Tucson, Arizona. There, Gabe met similar kids and made three new best friends—Luke, Cooper, and Brock (who among other things taught Gabe how to pee standing up).
Gabe, who will soon be 9 years old, has been attending the same school since kindergarten, and this past August when he started third grade, for the first time, he began having others refer to him by his preferred gender pronouns—”he” and “him.”
Gabe and his mother (pictured in the player above) recently came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth to talk about what it’s been like for him to be transgender, and his fears about the future.
Originally aired May 1, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.
Photo of Gabe courtesy of Chris López.
Clarence “Clancy” Haskett and Jerry Collier
This past weekend marked the official opening of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. And while the games now count in the standings, it won’t be until the weather warms up that the competition on the field will really heat up. But in the stands, there is a battle taking place that won’t wait until summer: the fight to be top vendor.
As anyone who has ever been to a baseball game knows, vendors roam the stands offering anything from hot dogs and peanuts, to scorecards and foam fingers. They are in a head-to-head competition with each other to sell the most of whatever product they are assigned, and one of the all-time greats is a man known as “Fancy Clancy.”
As a teenager, Clarence Haskett (pictured at left) began selling soda at Baltimore Orioles games back when they played their home games at Memorial Stadium (the team moved to their current home, Camden Yards, in 1992). Over the years, he worked his way up to the vendor’s most prized offering—beer.
During his 43-year long career, Clancy has used his quickness and his gift of gab to sell more than a million beers to baseball fans—a number we believe makes him Hall of Fame worthy.
Clancy came to StoryCorps with his friend and former coworker, Jerry Collier (pictured together at left), to talk about their work and how he got started.
Clancy’s story is one of 53 work stories featured in our new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.
Click here to pre-order Callings before April 19, 2016, and get great gifts from StoryCorps.
Originally aired April 8, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Clancy pouring beer courtesy of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Sports Legends Museums.
Zeek Taylor and Dick Titus
Dick Titus and Zeek Taylor met in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971. Zeek was openly gay having already come out to his friends and family, but Dick was still in the closet with the added burden of having his family living close by.
In order for the two of them to be together, they decided to leave Memphis and move to Fayetteville, Arkansas, a city that would put some distance between Dick and his family, and where he knew he could find work as an electrician. But when they got there, Dick was convinced that he would have to continue to remain closeted after encountering homophobia on job sites, leading him to believe that he would lose work if anyone discovered that he was gay.
In order to protect Dick (pictured on the right), they decided to buy two homes—one to live in together and another to use as a dummy house for Dick in case any of his fellow workers wanted to come by at the end of the day. They also established a code in case they ran into any of the people Dick worked with while they were out together. Dick’s colleagues called him “Oscar,” so when they were in public and heard someone use the name, Zeek (pictured on the left) would pretend that they did not know each other.
Today, Dick is out to his friends and family. They came to StoryCorps to recall their journey from owners of multiple homes for 13 years, to married owners of a single home together in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Originally aired March 4, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.