NPR 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.

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

Calvin Burns has trouble getting his 15-year-old daughter, Stepheni Bellamy, to talk to him. It's something many parents of teenagers can relate to.

He hoped that doing a StoryCorps interview — and sharing stories from his own teenage years — might help her open up.

Burns tells her when he was growing up, he was usually the only black kid in school and often felt left out.

Fatuma Abdullahi and her sister Maryan Osman are originally from Somalia, but when they were little girls, their parents died during the civil war there and both girls became refugees.

Since then, the girls, who are now teenagers, have found a stable home with Annie and Randall Johnson, a young couple from the Salt Lake City area. Last summer they welcomed their little brother, Roscoe, into the world. All in all, the five have become a family in their own way.

Manuel Cuevas moved to the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1950s to pursue his calling as a tailor.

He started sewing when he was 7 when most kids were occupied with other things, such as playing.

"The guys at school were more about playing ball and the slingshots," 78-year-old Manuel explained to his daughter, Morelia, at StoryCorps in Nashville. "That never interested me. I was really an outcast. I'd go to bed and I'd dream about fabrics and leathers and about the things that I'm going to make the next day."

Isabel Kouyoumjian was a tough metzmama — that's Armenian for grandmother.

Long before she was a grandmother though, Kouyoumjian was born in a refugee camp after her parents left the area now known as Turkey. They left around 1915, when they were fleeing the Armenian Genocide, which killed nearly a million and a half people.

Kouyoumjian eventually immigrated to the United States and raised two generations of her family. She died last March, but Joanne Nucho, one of her granddaughters, still remembers her.

St. Patrick's Day always involves cheery faces, shamrocks, usually more than a few people dressed in green and if you're lucky, some people even dress up as leprechauns.

Jess Buzzutto was one of those of lucky leprechauns. At 5 feet tall, dressed from head to toe in green, he was known as "The Leprechaun of Yonkers." Buzzutto died in 2012 at 70 years old, but before then he explained to StoryCorps how he became a town favorite.

Chris López always knew there was something a little different about her youngest child, Gabe. Although assigned female at birth, Gabe, 9, always knew he was a boy.

Things really changed for Gabe when when he spent a weekend at a camp for transgender kids when he was 8 years-old.

Michael Ryan, 45, is a juvenile judge in Cleveland, Ohio. And like many of the kids who end up in his courtroom, he didn't have an easy childhood.

He adored his mother, he tells his son — also named Michael, 19, at StoryCorps in Cleveland, but she was addicted to heroin.

This weekend marks 75 years since President Roosevelt's executive order that sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

Roy Ebihara and his wife, 82-year-old Aiko, were children then, and both were held in camps with their families.

At StoryCorps, 83-year-old Roy told Aiko about what happened in his hometown of Clovis, N.M., in the weeks just before the executive order was issued.

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