StoryCorps

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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It's been nearly one year since Susan Bro lost her daughter to the violence that erupted at last summer's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

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