Letters: Life After Survival, Signing Up For SNAP, MOOCs

NPR's Neal Conan reads from listener comments on previous segments including the aftermath of sudden, tragic events, the decision to sign up for food stamps and the pros and cons of massive open online courses.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

It's Tuesday and time to read from your comments. After the bombings in Boston that left more than 200 injured, we spoke with survivors of sudden tragic events. Alexia(ph) send - wrote us from Logan, Utah: I was in London on July 7th, 2005. At the time of the first explosions, I was on the underground headed for Kings Cross. They stopped my train at bank side and asked everyone to leave the station. Nobody knew what was going on yet.

So I decided to walk to my destination, which was the British Library. I was about a block from Tavistock Square when the final explosion at 9:47 AM occurred. I remember clouds of dust rolling passed and almost instantly the sound of sirens and people shouting. I was stunned. I walked on to the British Library where I learned what did happened. I had just found out that I was pregnant that morning.

As the media listed the rising death toll, I remember thinking that every one of the dead was someone's child even the bombers themselves. Later, when I miscarried that pregnancy, I wondered if it wasn't in some way related to the events of that day. I supposed I'll never know. But I do think that to have been present and unharmed in such a calamity changed me and made me view my life and the lives of all whom I love as far more fragile and contingent on the goodwill of others that I'd ever realized.

We also did a segment focused on the record number of Americans signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as food stamps. And Mandy Slack(ph) wrote from Tulsa: SNAP was an amazing assistance after my late husband became ill and then after he passed away. After he died, I live with my family but I was another mouth to feed and they could not afford to feed me. It made a big difference in my life during that mourning phase.

Amy Madison Austin wrote from Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania: It's not always so easy to get food stamps. In 2007 when my husband was still working for the post office, his hours were reduced, his check was $945 every two weeks. It was difficult for a family of six to live on that. We could not get food stamps because we have a farm and we take depreciation for the equipment, which made us look like we had much more money that we really did. It was an incredibly difficult time for us.

We talked with A.J. Jacobs about his experiment taking a number of massive open online courses and his New York Times piece "Two Cheers for Web U!" Helen Gearhart wrote from Beaverton, Oregon: I took Coursera's modern and contemporary poetry. I was skeptical that poetry could be taught in this format. It worked because there was a combination of watching discussions among the teaching assistants and professor. Every two weeks, there was an online webcast discussion, which made everything lively.

Betsy Hedberg in Denver had a different experience: The class I took was disappointing to me. I'm a mid-40s lifelong learner and signed up for a world music class. I was quite disheartened but it emphasized multiple choice quizzes and preparing for the exams over learning for the joy of it. I understand it's a real college class, but I wished there might be a track for those of us who just want to learn some cool new things.

If you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and giving us some help on how to pronounce your name. If you're on Twitter, you can follow us there, @totn.

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