The Destinies Of Two Men Who Share One Name
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Just after that Wes Moore learned he'd won a Rhodes Scholarship in late 2000, he also learned about another Wes Moore, who would soon be sentenced to life in prison for his role in a botched jewelry store robbery that resulted in the death of an off-duty police officer.
W: Wes Moore the achiever and now author took us back to the moment he first learned of his counterpart.
WES MOORE: That always haunted me, and it just sat with me for years until I eventually decided to write him that letter.
NORRIS: What did you expect to hear back, and what kind of response did you actually get?
MOORE: I was actually a bit surprised when a month later, I get a note from Jessup Correctional Institution from Wes Moore. And it was just a remarkable letter where he just literally went point by point answering the questions. And he was explaining to me how much it meant to him that I wrote him in the first place because he said when you're behind bars, you believe that no one even knows that you exist anymore.
NORRIS: Now, we ticked through some of your achievements. You have a sterling resume. Perhaps you could for us tick through a few of the important milestones in the other Wes Moore's life.
MOORE: And after, you know, being involved in drugs and having a chance now to rebuild his life, going to Job Corps, getting his GED, when he came out of that GED program, he was very fired up and excited about life and excited to do things differently and realized just how strong that calling and how strong that pullback into the streets was, to the point that it eventually broke him.
NORRIS: When you talk about the grip of the street, you often think of this sort of voracious force that grabs young men and women, but in his case, it was almost like he drifted into drugs, both using drugs and selling them. He saw a kid with a cool headset that looked like something out of a Janet Jackson video and said, ooh, I want one of those.
MOORE: That's right.
NORRIS: And before long, he was a lookout.
MOORE: What they say starts meaning a whole lot more than what the teachers are saying or what the community leaders are saying. And that's that pull, that's that draw that really dragged Wes in.
NORRIS: Now, we should say that you also had run-ins with the law yourself, and you flirted with the idea of walking across that line and leading a life that could ultimately have led to prison. But when you were arrested for spraying graffiti on a wall, you immediately knew this is not someplace I want to be. And you were with someone who had a very different reaction. He almost dealt with the cops like, come on, bring it on. I'm tougher than you are.
MOORE: And it was really at that point that my mother decided, she said, you know, I've got to do something different. You know, I've tried other schools in the Bronx, and this hasn't worked. So I'm just going to try something completely new, and that's when she decided to send me off to military school.
NORRIS: Is it key for boys to have consistent authority figures, also guides in their life? I guess that's what I was thinking about because your father died when you were very young, but he was there in the very early years, not so for Wes, the other Wes.
MOORE: And I think he's absolutely right. I think we do mourn their absence differently. However, that hole that was left in both of us from not having a father there, from not having that presence there throughout to help us to make decisions is, I think, something that both of us spent a lot of our time, particularly our young years, trying to fill.
NORRIS: What does the other Wes Moore want from this book?
MOORE: And I'm glad I did it because I think I'm a better person because of this process, and I think I rediscovered a part of myself that I never even dreamed and never even imagined was even there.
NORRIS: Do you feel at times that you're afflicted with something akin to survivor's guilt?
MOORE: And when you start your day reading a letter from someone who is going to spend the rest of their life in prison, when you start your day like that, it really helps you to think about your day. It humbles you. And I do think about the blessings that I had, the family, and I do feel like I'm very lucky, and I'm sincerely thankful for it.
NORRIS: Wes Moore, thank you very much.
MOORE: Thank you so much.
NORRIS: Wes Moore is the other of "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates."
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