Sweet Memories of Beloved Children For a year-long project, a group of eighth-graders set out to record the memories and impressions of Philadelphia parents and grandparents of teens who fell to gun violence. The three-person interviews were orchestrated by a local group, Need in Deed, and StoryCorps.
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Sweet Memories of Beloved Children

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Sweet Memories of Beloved Children

Sweet Memories of Beloved Children

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Each Friday, we bring you moments from StoryCorps, the oral history project that's traveling the country. Today, four stories.


Eighth graders from Grover Washington Jr. Middle School in Philadelphia set out to remember 35 children who were murdered last year in their city. StoryCorps and the local organization Need in Deed accompanied students as they visited the families of teens who were killed.

MONTAGNE: First, Vincent Roberts and Montez White interview Pamela Sanders about her son Tyrique. He was murdered at the age of 15.

VINCENT ROBERTS: What was some of his future goals?

Ms. PAMELA SANDERS: Tyrique wanted to become a basketball star. He also was a beautiful, beautiful artist. He loved to do artwork. Tyrique could look at you and then draw you as you were.

MONTEZ WHITE: Could you describe the day he died.

Ms. SANDERS: The people were actually after my neighbor's son. Tyrique just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time out there talking and the people that came starting shooting just walking down the street, broad daylight, open guns, just started firing. Actually four people got shot that particular day. Everybody else survived and I lost Tyrique.

ROBERTS: What was the last moment you and Tyrique shared?

Ms. SANDERS: When Tyrique fell in my mom's doorway screaming, `Mom, I'm shot. I'm shot.' After that, he wasn't able to say nothing else. I know I loved him. His eyes was open and I asked Tyrique to hang in there, it's going to be all right. I miss him so much. It's like half of my heart is torn, but I still got another child to live for and I've got to keep going. But each and every day it's just hard. It's very hard.

(Soundbite of music)

DYMENAY: Hi. My name is Dymenay and I'm 14 years old.

DARRYL MOORE: Hi. My name is Darryl Moore and I'm 13 years old.

DYMENAY: Today, we will be interviewing Ms. Susie Johnson, the grandmother of Malik Upchurch.

Can you describe his character.

Ms. SUSIE JOHNSON: He liked doing funny things. He loved to play and dance. Me and him would dance a lot. We would turn on the music and we would dance like from the front room to the kitchen. And he'll say, `I'm going to teach you a new dance, Gram.' So we would dance together.

DYMENAY: Can you tell us your favorite story about your grandson.

Ms. JOHNSON: When he was a little boy, I'll say maybe about five years old, he used to go to the store with me a lot and his thing was protecting me. He said, `Gram, you can't walk.' He calls me Gram. `You can't walk by yourself 'cause I've got to go with you.' So he would hold my hand across the street, but he was always protective. He wanted to protect me all the time.

MOORE: Do you still believe that he's here protecting you?

Ms. JOHNSON: Yes, I do. I really do. I think he always will.

(Soundbite of music)

VICTORIA CHAU: Hi. My name is Victoria Chau.

VINCENT ROBERTS: Hello. My name is Vincent Roberts. Today, we're going to be interviewing Mr. Rick Alston about his son.

CHAU: Do you know what you miss most about him?

Mr. RICK AUSTIN: Everything. Every single thing. There wasn't nothing about Uri I didn't love. We loved to go to the movies together. Every time when a movie would come out, we would be first in line to go to the movies, and my favorite memory of Uri is sitting in the movies eating the largest bowl of popcorn as possible and then sitting there eating it like there's no tomorrow. And we just looking over it, just laughing and just cracking up.

CHAU: What would you say to him right now if he were here?

Mr. AUSTIN: That I love him.

ROBERTS: Could you imagine what he would say to you?

Mr. AUSTIN: `Dad, I'm all right.' That's what he would say. That was his favorite word, `Dad, I'm all right.'

ROBERTS: How has your life changed since the murder?

Mr. AUSTIN: I won't see Uri that much no more. The only time I see him is in my heart and in my memories. There's a son I will never see grow up to be a man. So my life changed a whole lot. I will always wonder what kind of man he would have made.

(Soundbite of music)

TERRENCE BOYKINS: Hello. My name is Terrence Boykins. I'm 14 years old.

PATRICK VOLF: My name is Patrick Volf. I'm 14 years old. Today, I'm talking to Ms. Clark about Lamont Adams.

Why do you want to participate in this project?

Ms. CLARK: Because Lamont was my baby, my grandson. I raised him. I don't want him forgotten.

BOYKINS: What memories do you have of his early childhood?

Ms. CLARK: He had a hard raspy voice when he was a little fellow. There was a song out called, `Oh, baby, you, you've got what I need.' And Lamont wasn't even walking, but he was sitting up singing that song.

BOYKINS: Can you describe his personality?

Ms. CLARK: Lamont loved to talk and laugh. He had the prettiest smile and the whitest teeth and he always showed them, mouth always open. Always talking. He made friends everywhere. People liked him. That personality, I wish I'd had it.

VOLF: How do you want Lamont to be remembered?

Ms. CLARK: Just remember that big smile, that big smile that I'm so crazy about. His last wash is still downstairs in the hamper because I can't move his things. I go through them, I look at them, but I don't move his things. Sometimes I go in the bathroom and I close the door and I get down on my knees and I cry and I ask God, `Why my baby? Why did he have to hurt my baby?' They don't know what they took from us.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Loved ones remember four young people killed in Philadelphia last year: Tyrique Lovett, age 16, 15-year-old Malik Upchurch, Uri Alston, who was age 17, and Lamont Adams, who was 16. Interviews were conducted by eighth graders at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School in collaboration with StoryCorps. And we'd like to give special thanks to Scott Charles and Michael Galbraith.

MONTAGNE: To learn more about these families and to learn how you can participate in StoryCorps, visit npr.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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