NPR StoryCorps

The Day One Man Decided To Give Up His Gun

Apr 24, 2015

During the 1970s the Louisiana neighborhood Pastor David Ned lived in was a rough one.

"I had a little dog, a little white German Shepherd, and I was living in an apartment," he said to Darius Clark Monroe during a visit to StoryCorps last fall. The two men met while Monroe was working on a documentary, Evolution of a Criminal, about a robbery he committed in his teens. Ned was a customer in the bank during the robbery.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before Marine Cpl. Zach Skiles left for Iraq in 2003, he shared a quiet moment with his father, Scott Skiles.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast — equal to 4,000 pounds of TNT — killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

The federal office building also housed a day care center. The explosives-laden truck was parked directly beneath it. Of the 21 children there that morning, only six survived.

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Sissy Goodwin teaches power plant technology at Casper College in Wyoming. The 68-year-old Vietnam veteran dresses in women's clothing, wears bows in his hair, likes his skirts exactly 17 inches short, and prefers his toolboxes in pink.

Sissy is also straight. And he wasn't born with that name. His given name is Larry, but one day after a woman on the street called him sissy in a derogatory way, he chose to fully adopt the name. He says he was initially upset, but felt that by taking on the name he was taking ownership of her insulting comment.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Deidra Robinson and her father, William Watford III, were extremely close — until she told him she was gay.

They came to StoryCorps in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., to talk about that moment.

Their story may sound familiar to many families.

"I looked at you and I said, 'Do you want to hear it?' " Robinson tells her father. "Do you remember what you told me?"

"No," Watford answers.

"You were like, 'No, I don't want to hear it,' " she recalls.

Earlier this year, Morning Edition aired a piece about two families who came together after a car accident. That story of forgiveness led to another StoryCorps interview after a listener named Jeff Wilson heard that conversation and was reminded of something that happened to him in high school back in 1984.

Fourth-grader Aiden Sykes had a few questions for his dad, Albert.

"Do you remember what was going through your head when you first saw me?" he asked during a recent visit to StoryCorps in Jackson, Miss.

"I remember when the doctor pulled you out, the first thing I thought was that he was being too rough with you," Albert, 31, told his son. "And he actually held you like a little Sprite bottle, and he was like, 'Here's your baby.'

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, were going to listen to the man behind this music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Twenty-five years ago at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, two men posing as police officers tricked Rick Abath — the night watchman — into letting them in.

"At the time of the robbery I had just dropped out of Berklee College of Music. I was playing in a band, and working night shift at the museum," Abath said during a recent visit to StoryCorps with his wife, Diana. "I was just this hippie guy who wasn't hurting anything, wasn't on anybody's radar and the next day I was on everybody's radar for the largest art heist in history."

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Erik Galvan, 19, was walking ahead of his squad looking for improvised explosive devices. It was 2011, and he was three months into his deployment to Afghanistan.

The group approached an ominous wooded area; Galvan felt uneasy. His squad leader, Sgt. Daniel Wheeler, was several feet behind him.

Ten years ago Kevin Berthia lived in the San Francisco Bay area. He had an infant daughter who had been born premature, and the medical costs for her care climbed to nearly $250,000. He couldn't see a way out of debt.

Berthia fell into a deep depression and went to the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Before March 11, 2005, I never even went to the bridge," the 32-year-old said during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "I didn't even know how to get there. I had to ask for directions."

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs was there that day, too.

Noah McQueen is part of "My Brother's Keeper," a White House program aimed at young men of color.

His teen years have been rough, and include several arrests and a short period of incarceration. But last week, he was at the White House. The 18-year-old sat down for a StoryCorps interview with President Obama, who wanted to know more about Noah's life.

Wil Smith, a single dad whom listeners first met through StoryCorps in 2012, died Sunday at the age of 46. A few years ago he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Smith attended Bowdoin College in Maine in the 1990s. When he enrolled, he was not just older than the other students, but was also raising his infant daughter, Olivia, on his own.

In the 1960s in California, the state wanted children to be adopted into two-parent homes. But officials were having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys.

Bill Jones, a gay man living in San Francisco, had always wanted to be a father. He decided to apply.

"They were looking for somebody with family in the area and I had family in the area," Jones told his friend Stu Maddux, on a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children. I had been a schoolteacher for six years."

Yusor Abu-Salha was one of the young students killed in Tuesday's shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C.

She and her former third-grade teacher, Mussarut Jabeen, spoke to StoryCorps in May. In fact, all three victims in the shooting — Abu-Salha, 21, her husband, Deah Barakat, 23, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19 — attended the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, N.C., where Jabeen taught.

Jabeen returned to StoryCorps Wednesday to talk about that 2014 conversation with Abu-Salha.

Ten years ago, Sean Carter was a student at Midwestern State University majoring in business administration.

One night, he was riding in a car with a friend who had been drinking. They crashed and Carter was left in a wheelchair with a traumatic brain injury. He's been unable to walk or talk since and his mom, Jenny, has been his caretaker.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from those who have served since 9/11 and their loved ones.

Stefanie Pelkey, 39, is a former Army captain. Her husband, Michael, served in Iraq as an Army captain in 2003 and struggled when he returned.

"When he came back, he wasn't the same person that left. His light was gone. That's the only way I know how to say it," she says. "He just didn't joke around anymore. He had a lot of anxiety. He'd shake his legs a lot while he was sitting there talking, like, he'd tap his feet a lot.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducts an African-American driver for the first time Friday night.

Wendell Scott drove during the Jim Crow era, and he was the first African-American to win a race at NASCAR's elite major league level. He died in 1990.

Scott's career began in 1952, and his racing team was his family. They would travel to races together from their home in Virginia, and his sons served as his pit crew.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Shane Fairchild's wife, Blue Bauer, was "very rough around the edges," he says: "Blue was 6-foot tall, weighed about 230 pounds, had red hair and brown eyes, had been a trucker all of her life," Fairchild tells their friend Sayer Johnson during a StoryCorps interview in St. Louis, Mo.

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Colleen Kelly Starkloff was working at a nursing home when she met her future husband, Max Starkloff.

"Here comes this guy into my office," Colleen, 65, told her daughter Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein, 34, at StoryCorps. "Drop-dead gorgeous."

Max was in a wheelchair. He was nearly killed in a car accident in his early 20s, leaving him quadriplegic. "He couldn't use his fingers or his hands, but he could get his left arm around me to hug me, and that was fine with me," Colleen said of their first encounter. "And I was smitten."

James Taylor says it was almost impossible to find a job after he was released from prison in 1999. He had been serving 7 years for weapons possession and drug charges.

But then he met Darlene Lewis. Darlene runs an organization dedicated to helping former inmates find jobs, preparing them for interviews, placing them with local businesses and advocating for them in court. She's helped thousands of men and women.

"When you first met me, you was almost in tears," Darlene says.

Six months ago, Raphael Hameed was walking with his 5-year-old son, Ish, in Colorado Springs, Colo., when they were hit by a speeding car.

Raphael was seriously injured. Ish, his only child, was killed. And while the driver is awaiting trial for vehicular homicide, her sister, Megiddëh Goldston, has formed a bond with the Hameed family. They connected after the accident, and Megiddëh visits Raphael and his wife, Heidi, to help with their day-to-day life.

Herman Travis, 55, lives in Holly Courts, a low-income housing complex in San Francisco.

Every Tuesday, Travis fills a shopping cart with groceries from a local food bank and makes home deliveries to his elderly and disabled neighbors. He started doing it in 2007 and says when he first started, people were skeptical.

"When I first started doing it. People was cautious. They didn't let me in their house, but after they got to really know me they would just be happy to see me," says Travis.

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