Asad Kerr-Giles and April Kerr

In 2012, Asad Kerr-Giles was a college-bound high school senior when he was wrongfully imprisoned. After going to a school fundraiser party, Asad heard gunshots. The next day, he was picked up by police and charged with the shooting. He spent the next 28 months on Rikers Island before being acquitted. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his mom April Kerr about his time in jail.

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Asad and April’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with Friends of the Island Academy,  a non-profit that supports and brings opportunity to youth during and after their time in New York City jails.

Released May 5, 2017.

Jane Vance and Lucinda Roy

On the morning of April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho—a student at Virginia Tech—shot and killed 32 students and teachers, wounding 17 others. Until the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it was the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Artist Jane Vance and Professor Lucinda Roy were teaching at Virginia Tech that semester, although neither were present on the morning of the shooting.

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They returned to campus a week after the shooting when classes resumed for students who wanted to complete the term.

At StoryCorps, Jane Vance describes the inspiring way her class came together after the tragedy.


One of Jane’s former students, Kristen Wickham, was a freshman at the time of the shooting. Her friend Caitlin Hammaren was the only other student at Virginia Tech from Kristen’s home town of Westtown, NY, and was one of the 32 victims.

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At StoryCorps, Kristen sat down with her husband Andrew Baginski to remember Caitlin.

Originally aired April 14, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Virginia Tech students sing “Amazing Grace” at the conclusion of a candle light vigil on the drill field Tuesday, April 17, 2007, in Blacksburg, Va.  (AP Photo/Roanoke Times, Josh Meltzer)
Center photo: Lucina Roy and Jane Vance on the Virginia Tech campus. (StoryCorps/Erica Yoon)
Bottom photo: Kristen Wickham and her husband, Andrew Baginski in New York City. (StoryCorps)

Morelia Cuevas and Manuel Cuevas

Manuel Cuevas is a living legend in music fashion. Now 78 years old, he has crafted iconic outfits for Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, and Dolly Parton. He’s also the person who turned Johnny Cash into “the man in black.”
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When he was 7, Manuel learned to sew from eldest brother, Adolfo, who was a tailor in Coalcomán, Mexico. In just one day, Manuel was able to make himself a shirt and a pair of pants. He even designed a white suit for his first communion.CuevasExtra5Manuel recognized that making clothes was meant to be his vocation and, in the late 1950s, came to the United States to pursue his calling. Settling in Nashville, Tennessee, Manuel would make a name for himself as the “Rhinestone Rembrandt,” decorating his creations with intricate rhinestone designs and embroidery.

At StoryCorps in Nashville, he spoke with his daughter Morelia about his career.

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Originally aired March 31, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Manuel in his workshop. Photo courtesy of  @manuelcouture.
Second photo: Manuel with Johnny Cash. Courtesy of Morelia Cuevas.
Third photo: Manuel’s designs. 
Photos courtesy of  @manuelcouture
Bottom photo: Morelia with her father, Manuel. Courtesy of Morelia Cuevas.

Aiko Ebihara and Roy Ebihara

February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast.

In the weeks leading up to the executive order — shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor —  anti-Japanese sentiment reached a fever pitch. So-called “enemy aliens” were forced to register with local authorities and turn over radios, flashlights, and anything else that could be used as a signaling device.

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Roy Ebihara was 8 years old at the time living in Clovis, New Mexico with his family. He watched as his town grew increasingly hostile towards its small Japanese community. His father had to stop working as a machinist at the Santa Fe Railroad Company and the children were pulled out of school under threats of violence.

Several weeks before the executive order was issued, Roy’s family became among the first to be forcibly removed from their home and taken to a detention center.

Roy’s wife, Aiko, was also interned along with her family.

At StoryCorps, Roy and Aiko reflect on the days leading up to their internments.

Originally aired February 17, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Roy Ebihara (far left) with his siblings Mary, Kathy, and Bill on Easter 1941 in Clovis, New Mexico. They were taken to an internment camp the following January.

Dr. Joseph Linsk

For the second year in a row, StoryCorps invited everyone to take part in The Great Thanksgiving Listen—our effort to collect and preserve intergenerational interviews over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. And while tens of thousands of TGTL conversations continue to be archived and listened to, one interview in particular has gotten us wondering: Is it ever too late to make amends?

1480098019980-1The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Joseph Linsk was joined in his Atlantic City, New Jersey, home by his son Richard. Dr. Linsk, 94, whose practice once focused on treating patients with cancer and blood diseases, is now himself in poor health and living with Parkinson’s disease. During the recording, Dr. Linsk shared a story that he says has left him “smitten with grief” for more than 80 years.

When he was 8 years old, Dr. Linsk was playing with friends in the schoolyard when he unintentionally broke another child’s glasses. Needing to pay for their repair, he stole the money his mother had left for their family cleaning lady, an African American woman named Pearl. When Pearl asked for her pay, Dr. Linsk’s mother accused her of stealing and a young Dr. Linsk said nothing. His mother fired Pearl, whom he remembers as having a few children, and word quickly spread that Pearl was a thief, damaging her reputation and making it impossible for her to find work again.

There is also Pearl’s side to the story. How did this lie and the cover-up affect her and her family? Unfortunately, Dr. Linsk doesn’t know her full name or any further details about her family, but he did grow up on Atlantic Avenue in the Uptown section of Atlantic City in the early 1930s, so if you believe you know anything about her or any of her surviving family members, we would love to hear from you.

Contact us at: characters@storycorps.org or call us at 301-744-TALK.

Originally aired December 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo of Dr. Joseph Linsk from 2011 courtesy of Stefanie Campolo and The Press of Atlantic City.

Hartmut Lau and Barbara Lau

After graduating from West Point in 1967, Hartmut Lau was given a choice to serve his active duty in either the United States or Europe. He volunteered to go to Vietnam.

With the U.S. escalating its involvement in the Vietnam War, and the draft still two years away, Hartmut joined the Army’s 9th Infantry Division during one of the war’s worst years of combat. In 1968, American casualties peaked at 16,899, and 29 of Hartmut’s 589 fellow cadets from the class of ’67 were killed.

In 1991, after 24 years of service, Hartmut retired at the rank of colonel having been awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. Five years later, he met his wife, Barbara.

Over the course of their 20-year marriage, he has shared with her stories about his time at West Point, but Hartmut had never before spoken to Barbara about his service during the Vietnam War—until they came to StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 11, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Terri Roberts and Delores Hayford

It has been a decade since Charles Roberts IV took 10 young Amish girls hostage inside the West Nickel Mines School one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, before killing five, wounding the others, and committing suicide.

robertsnpr2Immediately following the tragedy, the Amish community reacted in a way that many found surprising—with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an important tenet of the Amish faith, which closely follows Jesus’ teachings to forgive one another and place the needs of others before your own. Vengeance and retribution are left to God. Their quickness to forgive the killer led a number Amish to attend the funeral of Charles Roberts, and closeness developed between his family and the community—particular his mother, Terri Roberts.

Terri sat down for StoryCorps with her friend Delores Hayford (pictured together above) to remember the events of October 2, 2006, how the Amish community treated her following the killings, and to discuss her current relationship with one of the severely wounded girls.

Originally aired September 30, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Rev. Troy Perry

On June 24, 1973, a fire tore through the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Thirty-two people were killed in the blaze and many more injured. To this day, it remains the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and until the killings on June 12 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, this act of arson was believed to be the largest single mass killing of gay people in U.S. history.

Unlike in Orlando where there has been an outpouring of support for the victims, following the Upstairs Lounge fire, there was overwhelming silence from politicians, religious leaders, and the local community. PerryNPR2And while police conducted an investigation, no one was ever arrested for the murders.

After hearing about the tragedy, Rev. Troy Perry (pictured at left with his partner Phillip “Buddy” De Blieck in June 1970, at the first LGBT Pride Parade in Los Angeles), founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, a national Christian denomination dedicated to serving gays and lesbians, flew from his home in California to New Orleans to provide support.

Offering comfort and assistance to the victims in hospitals, Rev. Perry recalls speaking with one badly burned man who told him that the school he taught at had fired him after learning that he was present at the Upstairs Lounge. That man died the next day.

Not wanting to return home until he held a service, Rev. Perry remembers the difficult time he had finding a church willing to act as a host. Eventually, the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the French Quarter opened its doors and mourners came to fill it. When the service ended, cameras outside confronted attendees and Rev. Perry offered them a way out the back. But in a show of strength, pride, and courage, “Nobody left by the backdoor. And that’s the legacy. We never ran away.”

The initial reaction to the fire is something that New Orleans has had to come to terms with in the ensuing years. In 1998, a plaque was placed on the spot where the Upstairs Lounge once stood to mark 25 years since the fire, and in a Time Magazine piece on the 40th anniversary of the blaze, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans apologized for its silence.

Rev. Perry came to StoryCorps to recall what he saw upon his arrival in New Orleans.

Originally aired June 24, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: Inside of the Upstairs Lounge on June 25, 1973. Associated Press/Jack Thornell.
Photo of Phillip “Buddy” De Blieck and Rev. Troy Perry courtesy of Rev. Troy Perry.

Joel Tucker and Gordon Blake

UPDATE: Joel and Gordon’s story aired June 26, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The shooting at the Orlando, Florida, nightclub Pulse on June 12, that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, while unprecedented in scale, is certainly not the first time a killer has chosen to target the LGBTQ community. Anti-LGBTQ violence has a long history in the United States, and in this special StoryCorps production (excerpted from our latest podcast, StoryCorps 473: Upstairs, Backstreet, Pulse), we look back at another high-profile incident.

Tucker3On September 22, 2000, 53-year-old Ronald Gay entered the Backstreet Café, a gay-friendly bar in Roanoke, Virginia. According to police accounts, Gay had set out that evening in search of gay people to kill, and after seeing two men inside the Backstreet Café embrace, he pulled out a 9mm gun and began firing. Gay ended up killing Danny Overstreet and wounding six others.

One of those shot was Danny’s friend Joel Tucker who was there with his partner and friends drinking beer and playing pool. At the time, Joel was not out as a gay man and recalls in a StoryCorps interview that he regrets telling a newspaper reporter that he was at the café at the time with his girlfriend. While initially not realizing what was going on, Joel remembers seeing fire come out of the gun, and when it dawned on him that there was a man shooting at people, he screamed for everybody to get down. “It was just like seven shots, seven people. Then he just walked out the door.”

Joel (above left) came to StoryCorps with his long-time friend Gordon Blake (above right) in Hollywood, Florida, days after the Orlando massacre to share some of the emotions that flooded back to him after learning about the killings at Pulse. Gordon, who was supposed to meet up with Joel and their friends at the Backstreet Café that evening in 2000 but did not make it, joins with Joel in offering advice to the survivors:

“You have got to be strong. Don’t let something like this ruin your life because it could’ve ruined mine…This was one person who hated and I have seen hundreds of people who love. And I think love wins.”

This story is excerpted from a special StoryCorps podcast featuring another previously unheard piece from a witness to the devastation that followed the June 24, 1973, fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Until the killings at Pulse, this blaze, which took 32 lives, was believed to be the largest single mass killing of gay people in U.S. history.

Click here to listen to StoryCorps 473: Upstairs, Backstreet, Pulse.

Top Photo: A vigil outside the Backstreet Café in Roanoke, Virginia, September 2000. Copyright, The Roanoke Times, republished by permission.

Tom Houck and Angelo Fuster

In 1965, Tom Houck was a high school senior when he decided to drop out of school and join the fight for civil rights.

Leaving Jacksonville, Florida, and heading to Selma, Alabama, Tom, 19, eventually met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and quickly volunteered to work for Dr. King’s Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Soon after his arrival in Atlanta, Tom was invited to the King home for lunch and Dr. King’s wife—Coretta—asked him to become the family’s driver.

Tom, who has continued to spend his life fighting for civil rights, came to StoryCorps with his friend, Angelo Fuster (pictured below left), to share memories of his time with the King family.   HouckNPR1-636x470

Originally aired January 15, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: Tom Houck in front of a mural at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. (Credit: Todd Burandt)

Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street.