NPR StoryCorps

When he was younger, Ronald Clark lived in the library.

Literally.

Decades ago, custodians who worked in the New York Public Library often lived in the buildings with their families. Clark's father, Raymond, was one of those custodians, and he and his family lived on the top floor of the Washington Heights branch in upper Manhattan. They moved there in 1949, when Ronald was 15 years old. In the 1970s, he raised his daughter, Jamilah, in the same apartment until she was 5.

In the 1990s, Johnny Holmes was head of security at a high school in Blue Island, Ill., when he met Christian Picciolini, a teenage student who was the leader of a local neo-Nazi group.

"I put you through hell," 43-year-old Picciolini said to Holmes during a recent visit to StoryCorps. It was the first time in 18 years the two had sat down with each other to talk. "I mean there were fights, there were words that we had those years that I was there."

Holmes, who is 71 and a school board member now, agreed, describing Picciolini as rough at the time.

William Lynn Weaver was one of the first black football players on the team at his Knoxville, Tenn., high school when it integrated in 1964.

The mascot for the West High School Rebels back then was a Confederate colonel.

"At football games, when you came out on the field, the crowd would be hollering and the 'Dixie' would be playing and they'd hold the paper flag up and the team would burst out through the Confederate flag," he tells StoryCorps in Fayetteville, N.C. "The black players made a decision to run around the flag."

Air travel can be a stressful experience for all of us. But for Russell Lehmann, who has autism, a flight delay or cancellation isn't just a small inconvenience. Unexpected changes can cause him to have panic attacks — or worse.

That's what happened when Russell was trying to catch a flight from Reno, Nev., to Cincinnati in June that got delayed.

Kyle Cook and Carla Saunders are neonatal nurse practitioners at a children's hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., where they've spent decades caring for infants. In the summer of 2010, their jobs began to change.

"We had six babies in the nursery who were in withdrawal," Saunders, 51, remembers.

Josh Hanagarne is a dad, a librarian and an author. He also has an extreme form of Tourette's syndrome. But he doesn't let it and his tics — his involuntary movements and sounds — stop him from living his life. He says he actually chose to work in a library because it was the quietest place he knew of.

Josh first started showing symptoms of Tourette's syndrome when he was in elementary school, about the same age that his son Max is now.

William Weaver was 14 and a rising high school sophomore in the fall of 1964.

He was also one of 14 black students integrating the all-white West High School in Knoxville, Tenn.

"As soon as we got into the school, the principal was calling the roll. He said, 'Bill Weaver,' and I said, 'My name is William.' And he said, 'Oh, you're a smart N-word.' I'd been in school maybe 30 minutes and he suspended me," Weaver, 67, says, while recounting his first day at school during a recent visit to StoryCorps.

Editor's Note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

Francine Anderson grew up in a small town in Virginia in the 1950s. As a young black girl, she knew all too well about racism in the Jim Crow South — but it wasn't until one night, driving back home from her grandmother's house, that she truly understood the danger she faced because of the color of her skin.

As a 15-year-old growing up in Washington, D.C., Marcus Bullock knew his mother, the Rev. Sylvia Bullock, was working hard to raise him and his sibling on her own. When Marcus saw the effort his mother was putting in and how little his family had, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

In 1996, he and a friend committed a carjacking and, despite his age, Marcus was tried as an adult and served eight years in prison for the crime.

At the beginning of his sentence, Marcus says he was focused on survival.

Wally Funk has spent her life in pursuit of a dream. The pilot, flight instructor and almost-astronaut longs to go to outer space.

In 1961, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine whether women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts and the women became known as the Mercury 13.

For 25 years, the Rev. Noel Hickie, 74, and Marcia Hilton, 70, helped families during their most trying moments.

Hickie was working as a hospital chaplain and Hilton as a bereavement counselor when the two met at a hospital in Eugene, Ore. The pair often worked together on hospice teams, helping patients and their families through illness and death. They spent decades of their lives doing this work, but in the beginning, neither was sure they were cut out for it.

"I thought that I would never want to be around sick people," Hickie says.

Asma Jama was out to dinner with her family at an Applebee's in Coon Rapids, Minn., in October 2015, when a woman seated nearby starting getting angry. Why? Jama, who is Somali-American and Muslim, was speaking Swahili and wearing a hijab.

The woman, Jodie Bruchard-Risch, demanded that Jama speak English — and then smashed Jama in the face with a glass beer mug.

"I could see it from the doctor's face that it was really bad," says Jama, who is 39. "I had lacerations across my chest, all over my hands, and 17 total stitches."

On July 19, 2012, Alex Sullivan went to the movies in Aurora, Colo., to celebrate his 27th birthday. It was a tradition of his since childhood.

That night, he and a group of friends planned to see a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman film. As the movie started, so did Alex's birthday — July 20. But a half hour into the film, a gunman opened fire into the audience and killed 12, including Alex.

Alex's parents, Tom and Terry Sullivan, remember how happy their son was before the movie.

Five Mualimm-ak remembers the first time he saw his son Omar, and all the preparation he did for that moment.

"I went to classes. I had like 50 books, so that I could help deliver you," Five tells Omar. "I wanted to make sure I was the first person to touch you."

The night Omar was born, Five says he fell asleep in the hospital holding him.

"I think it was the most joyous time in my life," he says.

Ten-year-old triplets Maddy, Zoë and Nick Waters share everything from a birthday to a bedroom. But in a StoryCorps booth in Bloomington, Ind., they discover — even as they finish each other's sentences — that there are still some things they needed to learn about each other.

In 1982, Vincent Chin was a 27-year-old draftsman at an engineering firm living in Detroit. On June 19, the Chinese-American immigrant went out with friends to celebrate his upcoming wedding.

That night at a bar he crossed paths with Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. The two worked in the auto industry and were angry about recent layoffs which were widely blamed on Japanese imports.

Being a dad is not just about biology.

Juan Calvo and his husband, Darrow Brown, know that fatherhood isn't limited to a science. In 2007, after Calvo volunteered to care for drug-addicted infants in Baltimore, he knew he wanted to do more.

So, Calvo and Brown became foster dads. The two still remember the moment they met their first foster child.

"The worker came in, she chatted a bit, then left some formula and said, 'Here, here you go. Sign this paper,' " Calvo says. "And this little baby, he was so beautiful."

A year ago, a gunman opened fire in Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Deonka Drayton was one of the 49 people killed that night, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Drayton was 32 at the time, and had a son with Emily Addison.

"She had a beautiful voice, the most amazing smile, and she smelled so good all the time," Addison said during a recent visit to StoryCorps.

The two moved to Florida together in 2012, and Drayton hated the heat.

When Anthony Planakis was going through the New York Police Academy, they told him to write his interests down on a little card.

"Beekeeping, of course I put that down," says 54-year-old Planakis, who is a fourth generation beekeeper. "And the very first job, the sergeant comes right up to me and I just look up and go, 'Hey, Sarge,' and he goes, 'Bees?' and I go, 'Yeah, where?' 'Harlem.' And I go, 'Cool.' That was it, that was the first job I handled," he says.

Memorial Day weekend is a time when a lot of Americans remember those who have served and lost their lives during war — and not all of those individuals were U.S. citizens.

When the Iraq war started, nearly 40,000 members of the military were not U.S. citizens. Army Pfc. Diego Rincon was one of them.

In 1989, his family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. In 2003, he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. He died for his country even though he wasn't a citizen.

Army Sgt. Robert Louis Howard was killed in action in 1969 during the Vietnam War. He was 24, and he left behind his ex-wife Roberta Vincent, and their 4-year-old son, Robert Howard II.

At the time of his dad's death, Robert II didn't quite understand what was happening around him.

"I remember not crying at the funeral," he says. "I thought it was a magic show. Seeing him, and then, when they draped the flag, all of a sudden the casket is closed. I'm like, 'Where did he go?' "

When Yomi Wrong was born in 1972, doctors told her mother, Sarah Churchill, the newborn may die during the night.

Yomi was born with a rare genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, which causes bones to break under the slightest pressure.

"Your skull was fractured; your arms, your ribs," Sarah explained to her daughter at StoryCorps in San Francisco, Calif. Doctors told Sarah the best thing to do was to leave Yomi in the hospital because she probably wouldn't survive.

Sometimes the toughest interview questions come from the most surprising places. Nine-year-old Isaiah Fredericks and his 7-year-old brother, Josiah, put their dad, Kevin, in the interview hot seat during a visit to StoryCorps.

They started out with the basics: when and where Kevin was born.

"I was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1983 on my grandmother Ruthie's bed," Kevin said.

Isaiah didn't know this but admitted it was an interesting piece of information.

But then his brother, Josiah, asked their dad, "How do you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?"

When Michael Yandell was 19 years old he was serving in the U.S. Army as a bomb disposal technician.

One morning in May 2004 he was on a routine mission in Iraq to clear explosive devices.

"We got a call very early in the morning. There'd been an explosion and there was a old rusted projectile in the middle of the road," Yandell says.

After seeing the projectile, Yandell says he picked it up, put it in the truck and started driving, with his team leader beside him.

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