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StoryCorps

Roberto Olivera grew up just outside Los Angeles in the 1950s. His youth was far from idyllic.

"My stepfather was a cruel man to my mother, my sister and I, and everyone in the family," Olivera, 64, told his wife, Debra, on a visit with StoryCorps in LA. "The beatings? Humiliations? I remember them every day."

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."

This story originally aired on Weekend Edition on Sept. 25, 2011.

As a middle-school student in the 1980s, Lee Buono stayed after school one day to remove the brain and spinal cord from a frog. He did such a good job that his science teacher told him he might become a neurosurgeon someday.

That's exactly what Buono did.

It was 1966, and a ship called the Daniel J. Morrell was making its last run of the season, hauling steel across Lake Huron. The crew was eager to head home for Christmas. But one night, caught in a severe storm, the ship broke apart and sank.

Only a few of the crew members made it to a life raft, and only one of them, watchman Dennis Hale, survived.

Laura Lane met Paquita Williams, a New York City subway conductor, when their train was stopped underground for two hours. Generally, Paquita says, most passengers are nice, but "there's times if the train breaks down, people think that's my fault."

Since childhood, Rami Aizic knew he "needed and wanted to be a dad." He assumed he would one day meet the girl of his dreams and it would all just happen.

Then he realized he was gay.

Robin Share also wanted kids, but had no partner. So when a mutual friend told Rami about Robin, he called her up and left a message: "Hi, Robin. I'm a friend of Scott's and he said you might be interested in having a baby with me. So give me a call back."

NPR's Steve Inskeep has a confession to make. In order to remain composed as the host of Morning Edition, he sometimes has to turn the volume down in the studio when the StoryCorps segment airs on Fridays.

"I just wait for the clock to run down so I know when to talk at the end because otherwise I know I'm going to lose it if I listen to that story," Inskeep tells StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. "It's deeply moving."

One day after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December, Liza Long wrote a blog post urging the country to focus on treatment for the nation's mentally ill youth. In it, she shared the story of her own son, "Michael" (not his real name). "I live with a son who is mentally ill," she wrote for The Blue Review.