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StoryCorps

Pedro Lopez was in seventh grade when a rumor began to spread through his school in 2008: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were raiding Agriprocessors, the meatpacking plant where his parents worked, in his small hometown of Postville, Iowa.

Editor's note: This story contains language that some listeners may find offensive.

To siblings Flip and Christine Cuddy, Susan Ahn Cuddy was "Mom."

But she was also a Korean American lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who trained pilots to shoot down enemies during World War II.

It wasn't until historian John Cha's biography of Susan was published in 2002 that her children learned about many of their mother's accomplishments.

Five years ago, Ferguson, Mo., erupted.

A Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man, in what the U.S. Department of Justice would later rule as self-defense.

After Brown was killed on Aug. 9, 2014, protesters took to Ferguson's streets, chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot!"

In the days of protests that followed, strangers Jamell Spann and Elizabeth Vega marched to the Ferguson Police Department to demand justice.

Amanda Farrell struggled with mental illness for much of her life.

When she was 18, she jumped in a lake because a voice in her head told her to. EMTs pulled her out and treated her for hypothermia. She was later placed in a psychiatric ward and committed by the state.

"Living in a cemented room with nothing but a pad on the floor, there was absolutely no hope," she said. "I was told that I was a lifer."

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

Walter Dixon had been married for just five days when he shipped off to Korea for his second war deployment.

About a year later, at age 22, he was declared dead. When his obituary was published in the local paper, his wife back home in Waynesville, Mo., had no way of knowing that the news was premature.

In reality, Dixon was alive behind enemy lines.

Facing persecution, violence, lack of health care and myriad other barriers to safety, millions of refugees leave home each year seeking a better life in a different country.

As of 2017, more than 2 million Somalis have been displaced, in one of the world's worst refugee crises, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

In July of 2011, just two months before "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, Navy Operations Specialist Sean Sala says he felt like he had to "get even" after serving under a policy that barred openly LGBTQ people like him from the military.

Tina Dietz grew up in North Dakota, in the sleepy, rural town of Mandan. But to her, it felt like a battle zone.

"I thought parents screamed at each other all the time," Dietz, now 38, tells her partner, Patrick Conteh, in a 2018 StoryCorps interview. "I didn't know any different."

Yet one silver lining shone brightly over the gloom: visits to her great-aunt Shirley's farm.

"It was just 60 miles," Dietz says. "I knew that road like the back of my hand. Every mile marker we passed, I was one minute closer to just being loved."

Many dangers await migrants who attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. Hundreds die each year, faced with dehydration, hypothermia and drowning. Many more go missing along the route, separated from their group.

Maria Ochoa is part of an organization called the Tucson Samaritans. She helps migrants along the way who are stranded or in danger. She brings them food, water and medical assistance.

Editor's note: This story contains some graphic descriptions of injuries that some readers may find disturbing.

On Oct. 23, 1983, Navy hospital corpsman James Edward Brown survived one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Americans.

When a bomb detonated at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Brown was at his post in the sick hall on the Marine compound — about 200 yards away.

At the time, 1,800 Marines were stationed in the city during the Lebanese Civil War.

Lisa Bouler Daniels, 52, grew up knowing she was adopted. Seven years ago, she began searching for her birth family.

By the time she found them, her birth mother had died. So had her adoptive mother.

She tracked down her half brother, Benjamin Chambers, and showed up at his church in the Chicago suburbs.

"I kinda ambushed you," Daniels told Chambers, now 37, in an interview at StoryCorps in December.

Chambers grew up as one of four children. He had no clue that he had another sibling.

"It was shocking," he remembers.

Editor's note: This story contains language that some may find offensive.

On the morning of April 20, 1999, 16-year-old sophomore Lauren Cartaya escaped quickly from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., after two students began opening fire.

Lauren's older brother, Zach, then a 17-year-old senior, hid for three hours in an empty classroom with his classmates. The gunmen killed 13 people and themselves in what was then considered the largest mass shooting at a high school.

Miriam Pratt was five years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. She remembers that after her father, Seattle Urban League leader Edwin Pratt, found out, he paced back and forth in his bedroom.

"He was emotional," Pratt's daughter tells Jean Soliz, her godmother, at StoryCorps. "I had never seen him like that."

Nine months later, her father would suffer the same fate. On a snowy night in 1969, Edwin was shot in his home, while Miriam and her mother, Bettye, were inside.

Shotzy Harrison grew up not really knowing her dad, James Flavy Coy Brown.

He was in and out of her life. James, who has been treated for multiple mental conditions, spent most of his adult life homeless. Once, Shotzy, now 30, found him living in the woods behind a hotel.

At StoryCorps in 2013, the two had reunited, and he had moved in with her and her two daughters in Winston-Salem, N.C. But her dad's presence was short-lived. and they would lose touch again that same year.

In the summer of 1981 in Louisiana, Liz Barnez, then, 16 and Lori Daigle, then 17, shared a secret kiss.

"I actually remember that first kiss," Daigle tells Barnez in a StoryCorps conversation. "We drove out to the parking lot of Lake Pontchartrain, and I remember never being so afraid and so excited in my entire life."

They had met the year before as athletes on competing Catholic high school teams. There was an instant spark.

Two decades ago, Maria Rivas emigrated from El Salvador to the United States, where she received temporary protected status (TPS) allowing her to stay and legally work.

But later this year, TPS – a humanitarian program — is set to expire for nearly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador, including Rivas. If forced to leave the U.S., Maria won't take her U.S.-born daughter, Emily, with her.

Alagappa Rammohan has amassed enough books over the course of his life to fill a library. In his estimation, he has 10,000 — everything from religious texts to quantum physics.

In a StoryCorps interview taped this summer in Chicago, Rammohan, 79, spoke with his daughter, Paru Venkat, 50, who tells him that one of her earliest memories involves his love for books. She remembers asking him to help her with her homework.

Last year, friends Jeanne Satterfield and Barbara Parham reconnected for the first time in a decade at a place neither of them expected to be — a homeless shelter.

On a visit to StoryCorps in October, Satterfield and Parham recall how reuniting at the Pine Street Inn, a shelter in Boston, couldn't have come at a better time.

"When I came through the door, I was scared to death," says Satterfield, now 62. "I didn't know what to do. I had never been homeless before."

Rick Rosenthal has been a year-round Santa for nearly seven years — maybe no surprise given his jolly demeanor and bushy white beard. What sets this Santa apart is something entirely different: his Orthodox Jewish faith.

Rosenthal has traveled the world for Santa events and has participated in television commercials, parades, trade shows, tree lightings and parties. He even runs a school for aspiring Santas. In a recent interview with StoryCorps, he sits down with his old friend and mentee Adam Roseman to talk about how he discovered his unexpected calling.

Larry Dearmon met Stephen Mills in 1992, around the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

In a recent interview with StoryCorps, the married couple reflects on a loss that brought them together — the death of Larry's former partner, Michael Braig, of AIDS.

"When I first met him, I was in the Army, and oh, he was handsome. He was extremely intelligent, ambitious. He loved everybody," Larry says.

Stephen asks him to describe what happened when Michael was diagnosed with HIV, which later progressed to AIDS.

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