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StoryCorps is coming back to Pensacola

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WUWF Public Media
The StoryCorps Mobile Tour visits Pensacola for the first time in 2010.

WUWF Public Media is welcoming StoryCorps back to the Pensacola area, starting in February. This will be the fourth time the organization has brought its Mobile Tour to the region, giving local residents another chance to record and share their stories.

“We’re so excited to be coming back to Pensacola, it’s been too long,” declared Danielle Anderson, associate director of StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour.

Anderson visited Pensacola recently to lay the groundwork for the return of StoryCorps; by meeting with WUWF staff, getting to know the area, and making connections to engage the community at large.

“You know our goal when we’re here is...say we collect 135 recordings or so, which is about what we’ll do. We want those 135 recordings, to the best of our ability, to truly reflect the diversity of the people that actually live and work here. So, we partner with a lot of local organizations, community leaders, and direct-service organizations to help us spread the word.”

Of course, the invitation is extended to the WUWF audience.

“But, we also we want those who are not yet pub radio listeners, to know about the opportunity and to also sign up with us to record,” said Anderson.

StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour first came to Pensacola back in early 2010, and it was open to all.

First in the recording booth were Destin restaurateur Charles Morgan III and his mother, Camille.

They talked about their lives and the life of their father and husband, Charles Morgan, Jr., a prominent Civil Rights attorney, who had died the previous year.

“I thought it was just great. I loved it,” proclaimed Camille Morgan.

“It’s good for you to stop and think and repeat, to tell somebody. It’s kind of like a brief story of your life from the beginning to where you are now. And, we all need to reflect on that occasionally, and where we came from and where we are, and are we going anywhere.”

“I think anytime you’ve got the opportunity to sit down in sort of a formal setting and ask someone you love and admire questions that you have had, it’s just a great opportunity in a fast-moving world,” added Morgan III.

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Joe Vincenza
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WUWF Public Media
Mike Cline and James Edward Brown recorded their conversation as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative in Pensacola in 2019.

When StoryCorps returned to Pensacola in 2012, the goal was to collect stories related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. And, their 2019 visit focused on their Military Voices Initiative.

“The walls had been blown outward and the ceilings came down on top of each other and everybody in the basement had been buried in rubble,” said Navy corpsman James Edward Brown, recalling the 1983 bombing attack on a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Armed with limited medical supplies, he did what he could to provide aid. It’s a scene he won’t ever forget. But, he laments the fact that the nation seems to have forgotten it and the 241 servicemen killed that day.

“It was the largest single loss of life by the Marines since WWII in Iwo Jima and our 1800 families from 35 years ago remember it today and every day.

Navy corpsman Brown took part in StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative in an interview recorded in Pensacola in 2019.

For this upcoming visit, there is no specific theme, and Anderson says the doors to the StoryCorps recording booth are once again open to the general public to talk about whatever they’d like.

“That’s one of the things that I actually love about our particular program at StoryCorps, is that we are the largest public-facing arm of StoryCorps, we are what brings StoryCorps to the masses, to the greater public, through our public radio station partners,” she said.

“So, we want to invite anybody that wants to take part in this project, to come record with us while we’re here.”

When StoryCorps comes back early next year, they’re bringing their iconic silver Airstream with them. But, in these pandemic times, they won’t be recording in it.

“Any of you that participated in 2010 knows it’s a great space. Like I said, we love it, but it’s also very small,” Anderson said, agreeing that “intimate” is a good way to put it.

“But, as we’re returning to in-person recordings, we’re wanting to provide more space for people, more space for socially-distanced recordings. So, we are recording off-site. We’ll have our Airstream here as the marker, but we’re actually going to be recording at The Spring, which we’re really excited about.”

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Sandra Averhart
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WUWF Public Media
Danielle Anderson, associate director of StoryCorps' Mobile Tour.

The Spring, located on the 1st floor of The Studer Community Institute, is partnering to provide a comfortable setting for the in-person recordings. There will also be a virtual option.

StoryCorps’ return to the Pensacola area is set for Feb. 17 – March 11.

Anderson says she’s looking forward to those people-to-people conversations about their personal and collective experiences.

“There’s just so much richness to the communities that are here to the history that is here, to those connections between those communities and how they’re working together to kind of lift people up and so, I can’t wait to hear what we collect here.”

Reservations will open on Feb. 3. As we get closer to that time, we’ll have details on the process and tips on how to get the most out of the StoryCorps experience. For more information, visit wuwf.org/storycorps.