NPR StoryCorps

Rodger McDaniel was 21 years old when his father died.

His dad, Johnny McDaniel, worked over the years as a miner and milk truck driver, married and divorced Rodger's mother three times – and he loved music.

Rodger remembers his beautiful singing and his shiny, black guitar.

"Even though my father didn't have much of a formal education, he taught himself to play the guitar by ear," Rodger, 70, tells StoryCorps in Laramie, Wyo.

Nearly 60 years ago, a U.S. B-52 bomber carrying two hydrogen bombs broke apart over rural North Carolina.

The bombs fell into a tobacco field. They didn't go off, but if they had, each 3.8-megaton weapon would've been 250 times more destructive than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Lt. Jack ReVelle, then a 25-year-old Air Force munitions expert, was called to the scene. His job: make sure the bombs did not explode.

The day Martin Luther King Jr. gave his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech in August 1963, a lesser known moment in civil rights history was unfolding in southern Georgia.

More than a dozen African-American girls, ages 12 to 15, were being held in a small, Civil War-era stockade set up by law enforcement in Leesburg, Ga., as a makeshift jail.

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.

New York City's Times Square has a ball drop on New Year's Eve. Tallapoosa, Ga., rings in the new year by dropping a taxidermied opossum named Spencer.

The "Possum Drop" is a tradition that career taxidermists Bud and Jackie Jones helped establish in their small town.

Bud, 88, and Jackie, 82, have been married for 62 years, and at a StoryCorps interview recorded in September, they spoke about their colorful love story — which began with a missing pet on their very first date.

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."

In 1973, Barnie Botone got a job in Albuquerque, N.M., working on the railroad. He was 22 years old.

Now, 67, Botone remembers when he told his grandmother that he'd be working as an engineer for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway. He had been excited to share the news, but her reaction, he explains in a StoryCorps conversation, was not what he expected.

"She cried with a moan, because the irony — it was too much to bear," Botone says.

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.

Roy Daley was 23 years old and living in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, when a friend offered him a job in the U.S. He immigrated with just two shirts and a change of pants to start his new life.

That was 50 years ago.

Those early days were challenging, Daley, now 74, tells his wife, Ana Smith-Daley, and his daughter, Lucy Figueroa, at StoryCorps — like when his flight from Honduras landed in the U.S., and he saw what he calls "a monster" at the airport.

John Nordeen and Kay Lee served in the same Army platoon during the Vietnam War.

Nordeen and Lee had very different personalities, but in the life-or-death setting of war, the two bonded. Nordeen, a soldier from Seattle, was one of the first people that Lee, a combat medic from San Francisco, talked to.

But after the war, they lost touch.

In 2015, after a years-long search by Nordeen, the veterans finally reconnected.

This story is part of a new StoryCorps project called One Small Step, which seeks to remind people across the political divide of our shared humanity.

In a recent interview with StoryCorps, two strangers, Tiffany Briseño, a social liberal, and Israel Baryeshua, who identifies as a conservative, came together to find common ground despite their opposing political views.

Editor's note: A version of this story first aired on Nov. 10, 2017.

Kaysen Ford was 12 years old in 2015 when he and his mother, Jennifer Sumner, sat down for a StoryCorps interview in Birmingham, Ala. The youngest of seven children, Kaysen talked to his mother about being transgender.

Kaysen Ford had just finished 5th grade in Tuscaloosa, Ala., when he started using he/him pronouns. It was around that time he began to tell friends and family that he was transgender.

"Because up until then, I did not know that the word existed," Kaysen said.

Irakere Picon was just two years old in 1991 when his parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico on a tourist visa. The family never left.

Picon grew up in Illinois, and in the summer of 2012, he applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA. Around the same time, he enrolled in Northern Illinois University College of Law in DeKalb, Ill. — and also met his future wife, Arianna Hermosillo. On their first date, he told her that he was undocumented.

Fifty years ago Friday, Mexico City kicked off the opening ceremonies of the 1968 Summer Olympics. World records were shattered in those Games, but it was Tommie Smith's and John Carlos' medal podium protest that captured the headlines.

Melvin Pender, a 31-year-old runner, was Carlos' roommate at the games. During a visit to StoryCorps last month, Pender reflected on the historic event with his friend, Keith Sims, whom he coached in track at West Point.

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

With tattooed arms and a well-worn leather jacket, Duane Topping looks like the kind of guy you'd meet at your neighborhood dive bar. In fact, after serving three tours as an Army specialist in Iraq, that's where he spent many nights to try to ease his anxiety.

But while he was deployed, Duane found comfort in a more unlikely place.

John Torres Jr. grew up watching his father, John Torres Sr. moonlight as a lucha libre wrestler.

Lucha libre is a style of professional wrestling that originated in Mexico. And love for the sport strengthened the bond between father and son.

Torres Sr. died in 2011 from complications with sarcoidosis — an inflammatory disease that usually affects the lungs, skin, or lymph nodes — at the age of 43. Torres, now 30, recently visited StoryCorps with his dad's best friend and fellow wrestler, Abraham Guzman, 49, to remember him.

This story is part of a new StoryCorps project called One Small Step, an effort to bring Americans with differing political views together — not to argue politics, but to get to know one another as human beings.

In 2016, following the polarizing election of President Trump, two people attended an anti-Trump rally in Austin, Texas — for two very different reasons.

Earlier this week, firefighters finally contained the Mendocino Complex Fire. It burned more than 400,000 acres and has been called the largest wildfire in California history.

On Sept. 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was outside of the Chevron gas station he owned in Mesa, Ariz., when he was shot and killed.

Balbir was Sikh and wore a turban. In one of the first hate crime murders following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a man, assuming Balbir was Muslim, shot and killed him as retaliation.

Balbir and his brothers, Harjit Sodhi, who is 57, and Rana Sodhi, who is 51, emigrated from India in the 1980s, and they owned the Chevron together. At a StoryCorps interview, Harjit and Rana remember their brother as friendly and loving.

On Sept. 11th, 2001, Joe Dittmar was on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower for a business meeting when the terrorist attacks started.

Dittmar, then 44, had been visiting New York City from Aurora, Ill., a Chicago suburb, where he worked in the insurance industry.

Before the meeting began, the first plane hit the North Tower, and Dittmar saw the hellish aftermath from a South Tower window.

In a 2010 StoryCorps conversation, Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves talk about the bond they forged working together to clear garbage in New York City. Both have since retired from sanitation work, but their friendship hasn't gone to waste.

In the spring of 2012, Emily Kwong was a college senior studying in New York. Just before finals, Emily, then 21, received a disturbing phone call from her father. Her mother, Linda, who had been suffering from depression, had attempted suicide.

Their relationship suffered as a result, and it wasn't until November 2013 that Linda and Emily began to process it together in an interview with StoryCorps.

That spring morning started like any other. Linda, then 51, got up, started taking her medication and just didn't stop.

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