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673: Left Behind

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

When I arrive at Margo's apartment for our interview--

Margo

Come on in.

Ira Glass

--she opens the door holding a glass of wine.

Margo

Hi. Oh, I need to have a glass of wine while I talk about my family.

Ira Glass

This is not totally a joke. She's got 11 brothers and sisters, and yes, Catholics, old school, Irish mom, Italian immigrant dad. And the kids do not all get along.

Ira Glass

How many of your siblings do not speak with?

Margo

I don't speak to-- Eddie, Victor, Mary Jo, Marina, Nancy-- five.

Ira Glass

You were counting on your fingers.

Margo

Because I had to think.

Ira Glass

We sit down on the couch together. The living room is decked out for a Game of Thrones viewing party. And I mean, like seriously decked out, like 15 plastic swords stuck into the back of an older rattan chair to make a fake iron throne, a miniature weirwood tree. I have no idea where you get something like that. It's totally distracting. On the coffee table in front of us, she's gathered stuff for the interview.

Ira Glass

There's a glass of white wine. What kind of wine?

Margo

Sauvignon Blanc.

Ira Glass

And there's a book. And there's a list. What is the list?

Margo

This is the order of the items of the things, in the order that I would like them from my parents' estate.

Ira Glass

Her parents' estate, that's what I'm here to talk to her about. When her parents died, her dad, in 2006, her mom, two years ago, they didn't specify in their wills which child would get which items. No, no, no-- they left all that to the kids, saying simply, everyone should get an equal amount.

Sibling number eight in the birth order, Joe, a lawyer, the sunny one in the family, was the sibling left with the truly thankless task of dividing the stuff. Their parents were these imposing, brilliant people, who they still talk about in this worshipful way.

What they have left to them is just these things, right? And this mandate-- to get along well enough one last time to split it up amongst themselves. And they don't want to screw it up. They want to honor their parents' last request. But they know it's going to be tough for them, given how they are sometimes with each other.

So they invented a process that is so elaborate, honestly, I found it kind of shocking, impressive but extreme. It includes the book, the one on the coffee table that Joe had created. It's thick and spiral bound, with photos of all 196 items of the parents that are up for grabs. Each item gets a number.

Margo

He's given a lot of thought to it. And there's four pages of rules and regulations of what you have to do.

Ira Glass

Actually, it's five pages of rules, single spaced, 23 rules. Here's number 10.

Margo

Number 10, the estate is not recognizing any alleged oral promises by mommy or daddy to give certain items to certain distributees. Thus, all such items are available to be selected. Hard, documented proof is required to show that intent and to exclude an item from the selection process. Thus far--

Ira Glass

Notice how every I is being dotted here. Hard not to wonder what mommy and daddy would think of it. The kids so suspicious of each other that all this would be necessary. The mom's engagement ring, for example.

To prove to anybody who might doubt that this is actually her ring, the one that she wore when they were little kids, and her whole life, until the viewing at her funeral, there's a photo they took of the ring being handed from the funeral director over to one of the brothers, who then took it to a jeweler, who certified that it is, in fact, the original diamond.

But the siblings that I talked to agreed all this is necessary, because there are definite camps among the siblings. Depending on the issue, they break down into two general teams.

Ira Glass

Do the two sides have a name that we should be using?

Margo

No.

Ira Glass

OK, how should we refer to them?

Margo

Oh, we can refer to them as the Rockaway crew versus the non Rockaway crew.

Ira Glass

Because they're the people who basically stayed in the neighborhood, and the people who didn't.

Margo

Exactly.

Ira Glass

Rockaway, by the way, is a neighborhood on the water in Queens, New York. Margo is a non Rockaway. And in describing other non Rockaways, she says things like--

Margo

Very handsome.

Ira Glass

Or perhaps--

Margo

Generous, kind, brilliant, PhD.

Ira Glass

But it's hard for Margo to even list the Rockaways without insulting them by the time she gets to the second person on the list.

Margo

One of my brothers is an architect, and he lives in Rockaway. And another one is a lawyer-- eh, lawyer, after a few times at the bar. He--

Ira Glass

Margo and that brother have particularly bitter grudges against each other. But I will say, I have never done an interview with somebody who drops her voice so often and so happily in the middle of stories to gossip on the record about their family. It made her really fun to talk to.

Margo explained that when they were kids, she and her siblings had normal rivalries that you would expect in any family that big. But then when their parents got old, adult disputes and adult resentments came up between them. Like for instance, who would get the house in Italy, where their dad was born.

It went to Mary Anne, the oldest kid, who'd fixed it up. Or whether Mary Ellen, the next to youngest, who for a while was responsible for their mom's care, was doing right by her. Sibling number five, Victor, thought he should be the one in charge of her care. Some of the Rockaways agreed, non Rockaways did not. And Victor stopped talking to a bunch of them, like permanently. Here's Victor.

Victor

Let's just say that I was disappointed in some of them, because I knew what was best for my mom. I visit my mother every day of my life, unless I was out of town. And after my father passed, I visit my mother twice a day. OK? And I bought my home one block from her house. So they had a choice. I thought they should have backed me.

Ira Glass

The bad feeling between the two sides bubbled over, even on the one day you'd think they'd put it to rest-- the day their mom died. Joe, the one who adjudicates between the non Rockaways and the Rockaways, was stuck in California, where he lives, that day.

Joe

On the day my mother died, April 8, 2017, I was trying a case in San Diego. And I got the phone call from the nursing home, saying, excuse me, we have to hold your mother's body, because there are two funeral directors that have come to pick up the body.

Ira Glass

What happened is a few of the Rockaways had arranged for a funeral in Rockaway. And one of the non Rockaways had arranged a funeral at their mom's parish, out on Long Island.

Joe

So that was my-- I spent three hours brokering a deal to have the funeral in Rockaway.

Ira Glass

When it came time to start dividing their parents things, Victor, a Rockaway, suggested Joe, officially a non Rockaway, that they do it using a lottery system. That's how their mother, who was also an attorney, by the way, divided her mother's estate among her many siblings.

The way the thing works is, basically everybody looks inside the book that Joe made up and writes down the items they want in the order that they want them and then sends their list to Joe. And then to figure out which sibling gets to pick first, and which picks second, and which picks third, and so on, Joe had to come up with a system.

Joe

And so, my brother Victor called me, and we discussed it. And he said, how are you going to decide who gets to go first? I said, I have a nice cute little five-year-old boy who lives next door to me. I think I'm going to have him pick out of 12 ping-pong balls, like the New York State Lottery.

Ira Glass

Like one number and each ping pong ball for each of the 12 siblings.

Joe

He said, oh, no, I wouldn't do that, if I were you. I said, what? Who can find something wrong with that? I'll videotape it, I said, it'll be all hilarious. He says, no, people might be suspicious that you rigged it.

Victor

It could have been the second video. The first video would have been no good, could have been thrown out. My brothers and sisters are quite bright. And they'll-- they'll easily detect the possible loophole in something.

Joe

I said, what do you want me to do? Get Pricewaterhouse, like they do the Academy Awards? He said, that would be a great idea. So I literally got an accounting firm here in Orange County. And I called them, and I said, can you give me a list on your letterhead with the numbers 1 through 12 in random order.

Ira Glass

It was from the accounting firm that put their brother, Eddie, first. So he picks first, in the first round. And in the second round, it goes reverse order, and he picks last. Then third around, he's first again. Then the next round, last. Like a fantasy football snake draft, over and over, until all 196 items are gone.

If you get one of the most coveted items, their mom's silver, her engagement ring, you have to sit out a few rounds after that. Another popular item is a pen that John F Kennedy used to sign a bill, which they have because their dad, Edward Ray, was in the Kennedy administration at the State Department.

He was friends with the Kennedys. And later a Chief Judge at the US Court of International Trade. So the book has a certain amount of historical memorabilia, including a photo of the whole family with President Johnson, and 11-year-old Margo shaking his hand.

There are only 196 items in the book, because lots of stuff was lost when Hurricane Sandy tore through their parents' house years ago. After the storm, Margo says, lots of items simply seemed to vanish, mysteriously. Don't get her started on who she thinks might have taken those items. Or, on the siblings who say that their mother and father gave them one of the items years ago, when they were alive.

Margo

People would visit my mommy and leave with items. I'm like, oh, what happened to that painting that was here. Oh, mommy gave it to you. Mm, mommy's 90, she gave that to you? So then things would gradually disappear from the home. OK, I don't really want it. It's just like, what, are you kidding me?

Ira Glass

It just feels unfair.

Margo

It just feels unfair.

Ira Glass

The lottery was scheduled for Monday, April 15, last week. I was interviewing Margo just a couple days before it would happen. She'd already made her list of what she wanted, ranked in order.

Ira Glass

OK, so read your list.

Margo

This is not going to air till after April 15, right?

Ira Glass

That's correct.

Margo

Correct.

Ira Glass

She was scared that a sibling would hear what she wanted and pick it for themselves just to spite her. One of the items she was nervous somebody else might get was this turkey platter she had her eye on. Her family used it every Thanksgiving when they were kids. There's a cartoonish painting of a turkey on it, colorful, kind of kitschy.

Margo

There's a big, ugly ceramic turkey platter that we love. There's a little story to go with it, that may or may not be true, that it was bought at a garage sale from the Robert Kennedy's family, when they were moving. And that they sold it, and my mother bought it.

Ira Glass

Wait, so in this story, Bobby Kennedy, the attorney general of the United States, a millionaire, has got to move from one place to another. And he's thinking, what am I going to do-- I don't want to move all this stuff, I'm going to have a garage sale? And like people from the neighborhood are going to show up at Bobby Kennedy's house just to pick up random stuff from his family?

Margo

It is my story. And I think it's true, but I can't swear to it. But it's my story. And don't you dare let me find out it's not true.

Ira Glass

This totally improbable story is backed up by both Victor, a Rockaway, and Joe, a non Rockaway.

Victor

I'm confident where it came from. It came from the estate of Robert F Kennedy after Kennedy was assassinated.

Joe

That turkey platter was Ethel Kennedy's. And that's how my parents got that turkey platter. My parents were good friends with the Kennedys.

Victor

You could call it a garage sale, but that's, to me-- I can't say it's wrong. But the garage of the Kennedy's is probably better than most. I think it was somebody in the Kennedy family was selling some items. And I assumed the money was going to go to a charity. OK? I'm sure that the Kennedy family did not need the proceeds of a platter.

Ira Glass

It took me a while talking to Margo to understand why this process of dividing their parents things has been so emotionally charged for everybody.

Margo

A lot of this is just whose mommy's favorite and daddy's favorite, despite the fact that you're in your 60s. My parents always had favorites. So everyone was always a little bit jealous of everyone else.

Ira Glass

Joe agreed with that.

Joe

We'd talk about this all the time, who's number one. There's no doubt who number one was. My sister Mary Anne was number one. And a lot of this just dealt with trying to get my parents attention, affection, and love. Because my parents had so little time to give to each one of us. Everybody was fighting for my parents' attention.

I don't feel I knew my father very well, until I went to law school. Then, all of a sudden, he took great interest in me. But where was he the first 22 years of my life? All of a sudden, I became important. Before that, I was just one of the runts in the family.

Ira Glass

One of the things Joe did, back when he was little, to be more than just one of the runts, was he memorized all kinds of information about American presidents to impress his dad and his dad's fancy friends.

Joe

Yeah, my father would bring me out to dinner parties. And I'd get all this attention from reciting the presidents, and when they were born, and when they died, and who was Secretary of State, who their vice president was.

So my other siblings started memorizing it. It was all driven by the same thing. And that is, oh, look how he got attention, look how he got affection, why can't I do the same thing? And so, to this day, I can rattle off the presidents' names. I learned that as a five, six-year-old from--

Ira Glass

OK, wait-- bring it, let's hear the presidents.

Joe

Oh, you mean, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, like that?

Ira Glass

Yeah, like that.

Joe

And we used to time it on who could do it the fastest. But my father was very competitive. So he has to take some responsibility. He was always number one in his class. He spoke five languages. He played seven instruments.

He was a student a Buddy Rich's. He was just a Renaissance man. He was Assistant Secretary of State. So to measure up to an imposing parent like that, you're always going to feel inadequate. That's what my brothers and sisters have to take with them.

Ira Glass

Wow, what a harsh legacy to give your kids. In a way, it's like something nobody would wish on their children, that kind of legacy.

Joe

Yeah, life's a bitch, isn't it? It's a-- that's the way it goes when you have great parents. People-- you often see families fall apart when the parents were great people.

Ira Glass

When the parents are gone, there's all kinds of unforeseen stuff they leave us with, stuff they never intended. The objects, and the money, and the property they leave behind, in a way it's so straightforward, compared to that other stuff. There comes a day, it's divided, and then it's over, which by the way, did happen for this family.

They had the lottery, a day early, on April 14, last Sunday. Margo did get the turkey platter she wanted. Victor got the judge's robe that his dad used to wear, that he wanted. Joe got JFK's pen. By all reports, everybody was pretty happy with what they got. And very soon, after the property is actually handed out to each sibling, in a way, it's like the official end of them as a family.

Margo, anyway, says that she sees no reason why she would ever have contact with like five of them, ever again. The others, though, I have to say, she's super close with, maybe closer after all this. Ready for the next phase, whatever that is.

Margo

I think it'll be really good, we just-- go on with your life. Enjoy your life and get over it, including myself, I say that too, OK.

Ira Glass

Well, today on our program, people leave us, and we'll have to scramble and figure out what to do next. We have stories of an entire town up and leaving, except for four guys. And another town, where kids got home one day from school to find that their parents were gone. And what do they do now? From WBEZ Chicago, this is American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One: The Sudden Departure

Ira Glass

Act One, The Sudden Departure. When we started putting this show together, we talked a lot about the rapture. You know, when the righteous get lifted to heaven, just a small number of them, leaving the rest of us behind. And I say us, because I know exactly where I end up in that story. Maybe you've seen the TV show about this kind of thing, The Leftovers.

Anyway, one of our producers, Lilly Sullivan, she visited a town, where all in one morning, hundreds of people learned that their loved ones are gone and they were left behind. Anna heard when she was at school. She was a junior, eating lunch by the football field.

Anna

And one of my teachers, she came up towards me, and said someone needed me at the office. So, I just got off the bleachers and walked to the office. I didn't think too much of it.

Ira Glass

When she got there, her mom and her aunt were waiting for her.

Anna

And my mom just came up to me and hugged me. And she looked at me, and she's like, it's OK, we'll get him out. I still didn't understand.

Ira Glass

Not far away, when school ended, 13-year-old Adrian had a feeling that something was going on, because his dad was not acting normal at all when he picked up him and his little sisters, Gabriella and Eva.

Adrian

Like, I was sitting in front of the car. He was kind of upset, or something like he usually says to us, like, oh, how was your day.

Ira Glass

This is Gabriella.

Gabriella

I remember asking, can I use the computer when I get home. He said no. And then I asked him, can we go outside. And he said no. Like, I saw in the mirror, like if he was in a different world, not here.

Ira Glass

Their little sister, Eva, was 10.

Eva

And me and my sister were like, what's going on dad? And he-- then, he was like, I'm going to tell you when we get home. So, then we got home. He said to sit down on the couch. And he started to tell us that they got my mom. He was like, the immigration got your mom. Then all of us, like, just started to cry.

Lilly Sullivan

Did you know what that meant?

Eva

Sort of.

Ira Glass

What happened was that immigration had done a workplace raid, the kind where ICE swoops into a factory or business and arrests hundreds or dozens of undocumented workers-- big, workplace raids, where hundreds get arrested all at once.

The US hadn't done them for a decade. But then the Trump administration brought them back. ICE says that when they do these operations, the employer is the primary target, the boss. When they find undocumented workers at a work site, they don't turn a blind eye. And since they know ahead of time that workers will probably be there, they often bring buses.

So anyway, my co-worker Lilly Sullivan, she was interested in these big raids, because she'd heard that when one of them happens, it ripples through the whole community. It doesn't just affect the families that lose somebody, but everybody else in town as well.

And the place she visited was the very first place that the Trump administration hit with one of these raids, Morristown, Tennessee. That raid happened a year ago this month. She put together this story about, first, the families impacted by the raid, and then everybody else in town.

We've changed all the kids' names in this story, here on the radio. Here's Lilly.

Lilly Sullivan

ICE picked up 97 undocumented workers that day, almost everyone working at a slaughterhouse outside of town. People told me it was like a bomb had gone off. Helicopters were circling the town. A big public road was blocked off. Officers in uniforms they didn't recognize directing traffic.

Factory parking lots all over town that were usually full emptied out, as workers scared of ICE fled home for the day. One family I talked to a lot about the days that followed, I'll call them the Garcias. Their dad had been picked up the morning of the raid, while the kids were at school, doing school stuff.

Manny was in the sixth grade and rode the bus home with his friends. They were talking about math homework and gossiping. That's his word. He was surprised to see his mom's car in the driveway when the bus pulled up. He usually gets home before her.

Manny

So, I was like, OK, mom, mom. Mom was home. But the door was locked. I was like, ma, ma-ma. And I didn't hear anything. So I'd start knocking, and I say my little brother's name, and open up.

Lilly Sullivan

Were you surprised it was locked?

Manny

Yeah. He never locks it, unless he's like scared or he's doing something.

Lilly Sullivan

Manny figured his little brother, Eric, was making videos and had locked the door so nobody would walk in on him.

Manny

Cause like, he records videos of himself, like making some slime.

Lilly Sullivan

Videos of making slime?

Manny

Yeah. This really, ooey, gooey liquid that he could play with, he did that all the time.

Lilly Sullivan

Eric finally let him in.

Manny

And he just immediately told me, hey, our dad is gone. They took our dad. I felt my stomach, it was-- felt like I was going to vomit.

Lilly Sullivan

Eric, who's nine, had gotten home right before Manny. Their mom was home and she told them right away.

Eric

And then my mom said that they got your dad, migration. And I was just like-- I said, what's that? What does that mean?

Lilly Sullivan

Their mom had locked herself in the house. She'd been sitting inside, curtains drawn, lights off, hiding quietly since morning. They sat with her on the couch, making no noise. She'd been watching Facebook Live updates all day, people posting about their families.

She knew that a lot of people had gone to where the arrested people were being held, in a big armory outside of town. All day, their mom had been too afraid to head down there, afraid to get so close to ICE. She's undocumented too.

If she were taken, her kids would be completely on their own. But after seeing so many people there all day, including some people that she knew didn't have papers, she decided to risk it. Her husband's diabetic and he needed his medication.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

And so I pulled myself together, she said, and I took the risk.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

I said, let's go, they can't get all of us who are down there.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

If they take us, they take us.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

I got up and I went. She brought one of her older sons with her, her 13 year old. He's a citizen. And she left her younger two kids at home. She told Manny to take care of his little brother until they got back. As she left, she did the thing that lots of moms do to distract their kids in an emergency.

Eric

My mom told me start cleaning, and then we started cleaning.

Manny

So, first we do living room, like sweep, clean what's on floor. Then we do the dishes, put them back where they are. And then, dining room, clean the table, clean the chairs. But it was usually quiet. We never liked talked on that day. We didn't talk the whole time we were cleaning.

Eric

And after we were done cleaning, which was nighttime, I got something to eat.

Lilly Sullivan

Manny made Eric dinner, a pop tart and milk and put on cartoons for him, Teen Titans Go. He sat next to him while he watched. Manny, himself, was glued to his phone, watching all the Facebook updates and Snapchatting with friends, trying to find news.

Around 11:00, they got a call from their mom. She told them to go to bed. They had school tomorrow. She said they'd be home soon. But neither of the boys could sleep.

Eric

I was feeling sad that-- that-- oh, he's not actually coming back. But then, every time my mom always said, he's coming back, he's coming back.

Lilly Sullivan

Did you not believe that he would come back that night? Or were you worried that he wouldn't?

Eric

I didn't believe he was coming.

Lilly Sullivan

Why not?

Eric

I don't know.

Lilly Sullivan

Yeah, were you scared?

Manny

I was pretty scared, cause-- I was scared it was going to be me and him all by ourselves. And they would be gone. And we'd be just me and him. Just I was thinking all of that in my mind. Cause I have to take care of him. I have to cook him food and I have to like, you know, take responsibility and take care of him.

Lilly Sullivan

Wait, but how old are you? Isn't that too much to do?

Manny

I mean, I'm 12, so, I'm pretty-- I already know everything about him, and what he likes, and everything. So, I think I'll be pretty good in taking care of him.

Lilly Sullivan

Eventually, their mom came home. Their dad didn't. At 11:00 that night, he was one of 54 people that ICE sent to detention in Alabama. A teacher who'd gone to the armory that day to be with his students and try to help, he told me that seeing these white buses line up and file out in the dark, no goodbyes, no information, it felt like something out of the X Files.

Of the 97 undocumented workers picked up that morning, ICE let 32 people go, one by one, over the course of the day. ICE had put them into deportation proceedings, but said they could wait for their court dates at home. It was strange, who got released and who didn't. They released mostly women, some single mothers, but not all of them.

They released some people with chronic illnesses, but not all of them. There were a few couples who worked together at the plant, couples with kids, both parents detained. In cases like that, someone told me that ICE told them to choose-- said, we'll let one of you go home, choose who. People always chose the mom.

I talked to the special agent in charge of the Morristown operation. He told me ICE has a policy to not leave kids with no parent or caretaker. So when two parents are detained, they might release one. It's at the officer's discretion.

Morristown is small enough, under 30,000 people, that nobody in town could avoid what happened. Everyone saw the helicopters. Lots of people knew someone who'd been picked up or knew their kids or other relatives. When dozens of officers come storming into a small town, rounding up a hundred people, it's the kind of thing where people spill out of their houses and watch.

Krista Etter lives up the hill from the plant. She had been scared that there was some criminal on the loose. She called her daughter, who was at home, and told her to lock the doors. When Krista heard it was a raid at the slaughterhouse, she hiked across the field by her house to go see.

She saw the ICE trailer, officers cordoning off the entrance to the plant. Krista's a Trump supporter. She's not a fan of illegal immigration. Most of the area is that way. The county went 77% to Trump. She didn't know anyone who'd been directly affected.

Over the weekend, she went to a vigil for the parents who'd been taken away, not because she wanted to. She didn't. She's the general manager for a local paper. And they asked her to take pictures. She says that when she showed up, she was actually a little angry that all these people were there at all, like what do they expect? These people broke the law. They should have seen it coming.

Krista Etter

I thought this possibly was a good thing, that ICE was cracking down on immigration. They're here illegally. They need to go home.

Lilly Sullivan

And then she started listening to the kids at the mic.

Teenager

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Krista Etter

There was a young man. He was a teenager, 14, 15 years old, that said, he just wanted his mom to come home.

Teenager

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Krista Etter

He didn't have anybody else. He just wanted his mom to come home.

Teenager

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Krista Etter

It just really, just shook my soul. It was-- it was almost overwhelming, because there were so many children speaking. And-- and, I actually kind of had to get out of there. Because I was like, it's getting hot. And I have health issues. And I was like, I need to-- I have to remove myself, you know, walk out to my car, get a breath.

And God's kind of going, see, I wanted you here, because you're not correct in your thinking. You're not correct in thinking that this is so black and white. Because when I heard crack down on illegal immigration, I interpreted it as a crackdown on illegal immigrants that were criminals. If there was a drug situation, you know, violent criminals, pedophile, any kind of situation of that nature. That's what I expected.

And I really believe I'm not the only one who did that. I don't think anybody ever really stopped to think that they were going to go after the family man working at the meatpacking plant. That's not what I had in mind.

I'm still a President Trump supporter. I guess, I have to hold out hope that maybe he didn't understand he was going after the guy in the meatpacking plant. I mean, I guess he probably does.

Lilly Sullivan

I talked to a lot of people in town, who, after the raid, said they felt stunned. People kept reminding me, this is the Bible Belt. This town's God fearing. There's over 100 churches in the area. Love thy neighbor, people take that seriously.

And that really shaped the town's response to the raid. Reverend David Williams is a pastor in town at a Southern Baptist Church. He describes himself as Republican, conservative, very pro-life, pro military, pro Second Amendment. Also, he led a prayer at the vigil.

David Williams

That Jesus loves the little children.

Interpreter

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

David Williams

Regardless of their color.

Interpreter

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

David Williams

Or the status of their citizenship.

[APPLAUSE]

Lilly Sullivan

He felt he needed to do it, after driving past the raid all day, on his way between his house and his church.

David Williams

And it was very creepy to see a particular ethnic group basically rounded up. As Americans, we are better than this.

Lilly Sullivan

I'm just trying to understand, this is kind of exactly what President Trump said he would do. He promised workplace raids, right? And then, everyone was really shocked when it actually happened. Why are people surprised, do you know?

David Williams

I don't know. I don't-- I hope-- I don't think when people voted for Trump that they were voting for more raids. I think people were voting for a secure border. You know, surely people didn't vote that families would be separated, and that families torn apart, and children scared, when am I going to see my mother or father again?

We're talking about our neighbors. They're in the shadow of the steeple of the church where I serve. So I have a moral and biblical obligation. It became-- it became a divine thing, yeah. I hope I have a job after this interview.

Lilly Sullivan

Other people told me the same thing, their faith told them that they needed to help these families. So this very conservative town stepped up to help the people who'd been detained and their families.

Morristown's pretty small, but it's also pretty well integrated. Latinos have been there for decades. Whites and Latinos live in the same neighborhoods. The schools are mixed. By the morning after the raid, the town had raised $30,000 to bond people out of detention and to help with necessities. Two weeks later, it was up to $90,000. Again, here's Krista.

Krista Etter

I think some of it was guilt. It was guilt. Because you don't raise the kind of money in these communities, because we all thought we were right in our assumptions. Do you see what I mean? It was guilt. We were like, wow, we all thought that they should all go home. We all thought we needed to build a wall.

And then, all of a sudden, we watched families being torn apart. We never thought about those that were left behind.

Lilly Sullivan

Now they did. Pastors in town started a telephone chain, opening up churches around town as sanctuaries, with cots for people who were scared that ICE would come back. When an immigration raid hits, you don't usually hear about this kind of response-- a town wide effort to pick up the pieces.

Longtime residents lined up to volunteer at churches, brought trucks full of food and donations. One organizer told me that a local bishop dropped off $5,000 and said, this is from my church, I'm sorry, this is not what we intended. People connected families with lawyers, wrote hundreds of character references for people detained.

The Garcia family, where the kids cleaned the house the day of the raid, the kids' teachers came by each week with bags of groceries. And two months later, at the crack of dawn, their dad came home. The town donated $1,000 to go toward his bond. And the mom was able to scrape together another $9,000 and bond him out.

His older sons picked him up from Louisiana. They drove all night to get home. He hadn't told his younger sons he was out. Their mom got them out of bed, saying, wake up, we're going to McDonald's for breakfast. Hurry up, we're about to leave.

They were putting on their shoes when their dad opened the screen door and said, so what are you going to get me from McDonald's? Their mom actually videoed it on her phone.

[CRYING]

The second his dad walks in, the youngest son, Eric, loses it. Starts wailing.

[CRYING]

He's hugging his dad and saying, papi.

The raid happened a year ago this month. And even now, the kids still cling to their dad.

Lilly Sullivan

You always want to go with him wherever he goes?

Manny

Yeah, even just like go pick up tortillas for whenever mom's cooking. Or if he's just going to run errand or go pay a bill, or something like that. He's like, oh, only one person can go, because we can't all go. So we all take turns going with him sometimes. Because it only gets fair.

Lilly Sullivan

Are you serious? You take turns going with him when he goes out?

Manny

Yeah.

Lilly Sullivan

Their dad has his reasons for only taking one kid at a time.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

Well, no, because they asked for a ton of stuff. And then one of them doesn't have his shoes on, and one isn't dressed. So I just take the one who's ready.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

The first one, and then later, if I go back out, I take the other one, like that.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

It's like wherever I go, they want to go too. And sometimes, their mom doesn't want me to go out alone either.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

They think that at any moment, the same thing will happen.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

And I hope not.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

But only God knows what will happen.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Lilly Sullivan

So, yeah.

He's still at home. He's in deportation proceedings. His court date is next year. And no one knows if he'll have to leave. So they have to plan.

The older kids are getting jobs. The younger ones are learning to cook, so that they can help their mom, preparing for that possibility in case he goes.

Ira Glass

Lilly Sullivan is one of the producers of our show.

Coming up, flames moving in from all sides. An entire town flees. Only four people left behind. What's their next move? That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our show, we choose a theme. Today's program, Left Behind, the stories where people are suddenly gone and everyone leftover has to figure out how to handle whatever comes next.

Act Two: Passed Over

Ira Glass

We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, Passed Over.

So last fall, the deadliest wildfire in 100 years happened in Northern California. Climate change is real. 150,000 acres burned. 85 people died. 40,000 were displaced from their homes. Two entire communities, Paradise and Concow, were gone in the first 6 and 1/2 hours. Other towns are partially destroyed.

Aerial photos show street after street with rectangles of ash in rows. All along the sides of the streets, former homes and buildings. Every disaster has lucky survivors. In this fire, one place that made it through is called Helltown. That's Helltown, like H-E- double L. It was left behind when so much else was destroyed.

We heard about Helltown from reporter Robert Baird's great piece in GQ, it is in next month's print edition. It's online right now. Nancy Updike has our story.

Nancy Updike

Helltown is tiny, fewer than 20 houses in a canyon. No store, no post office, more of an enclave than a town. What happened there only makes sense if you know that, A, a trained firefighter was involved, and B, the group of friends who went back to Helltown after it had been evacuated and decided to try and save it, all grew up together, are super tight, and either still live in and around Helltown, or have family there.

They're also all in their 40s-- well, one 39-year-old. They all have kids. Very aware of their own mortality. So in early November, around 7:45 at night, Jeb, Jason, and Dharma, son of hippie parents, drove up to the ridge overlooking Helltown and just stood there, staring down, with no plan, just watching flames in the distance. This is Dharma.

Dharma

You know, first, we're in shock. We're a little bit-- we're like, pointing at different spots, thinking that's your home, that's your parents' home. Oh, man-- these little fires are everywhere. And then the fire's coming down these-- all down the ridge, it's coming down all the little creek cracks, coming down the canyon walls.

Nancy Updike

Uh-huh.

Dharma

And it looked like lava flow. It reminded me of just like lava, again, like red waterfalls, coming down the sides of the hills.

Nancy Updike

It seemed like the right time to turn around and leave, which is exactly what Jeb says, very sensibly, in a cell phone video from that night.

Jeb

We should leave pretty soon.

Nancy Updike

Not once.

Jeb

Guys, we should go, look at that.

Nancy Updike

Not twice.

Jeb

Yeah, we got to turn around, buddy.

Nancy Updike

Three times he says it, agreeing with Jason's brother, who was on the phone, also urging them to get the hell out of there. But as they were looking down, suddenly they noticed tail lights, one car moving fast through Helltown. This is Dharma again.

Dharma

Weaving around, you can kind of follow the tail lights.

Nancy Updike

Uh-huh.

Dharma

I thought it was this friend of ours, because the way they were driving, we have a friend that we kind of-- that we grew up with, up in the canyon. We thought it was this guy, Little Billy. But--

Nancy Updike

Just based on how he was driving?

Dharma

Yes, because the way someone stops, and then jumps in, and-- yeah, you have to know this guy.

Nancy Updike

OK, all right.

It wasn't Little Billy, though. It was a different guy Jeb, Jason, and Dharma had all grown up with, the trained firefighter, who we're going to call Sam, because he was not officially there.

The three of them up on the ridge guessed it was Sam, called him on his cell. He said, yep, it's me, I'm down here.

Dharma

And I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I'm pretty sure he said, I think Helltown's still standing or something. There's a lot of homes down here that are still doing OK.

Nancy Updike

Sam the firefighter also said, I'm not leaving. The fire's not bad here yet. There's spot fires. And I'm going to stay and do what I can. Sam was alone down there. Helltown's volunteer fire department and all of its equipment had been deployed elsewhere.

Dharma

Then that was like the three of us kind of looked at each other, and, you know, we made the decision, we're going to drive down there and help Sam out.

Nancy Updike

Did it feel like, OK, he's down there, this is doable, and we're just going to do it? Or did it feel like, this might be crazy?

Dharma

I'm going to say D, all the above.

Nancy Updike

OK.

Dharma

It was a little bit-- a little bit of everything, yes.

Nancy Updike

Fire doesn't always move in an organized way. Even an enormous wildfire like this isn't just one mass, spreading out like a flood. Bits of fire jump off, embers fly out or get picked up by the wind. And if those embers land, spot fires can start up, little hot spots that could become huge new fires or-- or they could fizzle if there isn't stuff around to burn.

Fire has needs and weaknesses that can be exploited if you're skilled and very, very lucky. Dharma describes himself as an old athlete, pedal to the metal, go for it person. Whereas, Jeb is an artist, more of a quiet, let's think about this, perspective having person. So, the whole breakfast club mix of the four people is athlete, artist, firefighter, and Jason.

Jason didn't want to be interviewed. The firefighter was busy. So this is Jeb and Dharma's story of that night, starting with the harry drive downhill in poor Jason's new truck, down a skinny dirt road, called Center Gap Road, that skirts along the canyon. And they're heading into flames.

Dharma

Sure enough, about halfway down the road, the fire was on both sides of Center Gap. Feels like we're driving-- we're on one of those little space shuttles or things, and we're driving on planet Mars. You know, everything's burning all around you. It's like everything's on fire.

Nancy Updike

Here's Jeb's quiet artist version of that drive.

Jeb

We did drive-through some flames to get down that road, but nothing like life threatening.

Nancy Updike

OK. I'll take your word for it, OK.

Jeb, Dharma, and Jason get down to the main drag, Centerville Road, and they're looking around. And Sam is right, a lot of houses are still standing. And Centerville Road is a natural fire stop. The big fire is moving unevenly down the canyon on the right. And most of Helltown's houses are to the left of Centerville Road, the side away from the fire. And then, here and there are spot fires, one of which Sam is hacking away at.

Dharma

There was a house and the cedar fence is all on fire. And Sam has a chainsaw. And he's-- he's chainsawing parts of the fence, and kicking them over, trying to-- I see what he was doing. He was stopping it from-- the flames were burning all this whole fence. And they were getting close to the house. And instantly, he's like, there's no time for talk. There's a shovel in the back of my truck.

Nancy Updike

He's just shouting this at you?

Dharma

Yeah.

Nancy Updike

Over the chainsaw.

Dharma

Yeah, over the chainsaw. He's like get to work, you made it.

Nancy Updike

The escape plan, if it came to that, was meet under the bridge and jump in the creek. Sam also gave some quick tips-- check overhead to make sure you're not under power lines and always park your truck pointed downhill for a quick getaway. Other than that, it was just fire triage.

Patrol up and down Centerville Road, assess where the fire is getting close to the road, and clear as much brush and flammable material as possible away from the side of the road where the fire is approaching. Keep an eye on trees that might burn and fall across the road. And tackle whatever looks most urgent with whatever tool you've got.

For the houses, Jason had an excavator, sort of like a tank with a long bucket arm. He would drop the bucket arm down and drag it around the houses and buildings to clear brush that might catch fire. Basically, make a fire resistant clearing. Also, he could lift the arm up about 20 feet, to break off branches that might catch fire and fall on people's houses.

Dharma and Jeb dug ditches by the road, around houses. They raked brush. They moved propane tanks. They used shovels. They used water, if they could find it, and anything else at hand to put out flaming decks and sheds.

When they finished with one area, they jumped in one of the two trucks and drove to the next one, up and down the same mile of road. Sam was fighting fires and also coming back and guiding the rest of them-- go here, go there. Around 9 PM, pretty early on, they all lost cell phone service.

Jeb

So we would all check in with each other, and go, hey, how you doing, what do you need?

Nancy Updike

Yeah.

Jeb

We're going here to look at this spot.

Dharma

We were mostly worried about where the pine trees were at.

Nancy Updike

He means the trees on the side of the canyon.

Dharma

Because they're the ones that kick off the big embers and have the sap that kind of explodes.

Nancy Updike

Uh-huh.

Dharma

And then the flames were coming over in different spots everywhere, right? All the way down the canyon, it's kind of falling over. And there was a couple of trees that were kind of hanging over, up by the Centerville Cemetery.

There was kind of like a-- it's like a tunnel up there of big oaks. And I was a little concerned that the fire would hit those, and crawl up in there, and then kind of cross over the road.

Nancy Updike

All night, they were clearing small flammable things away from bigger, more dangerous flammable things, obsessively crushing out little fires.

Jeb

I was stamping on coals and burning leaves. And I realized, I can't do this anymore. So I grabbed one of my kayak paddles. And I was slapping flames with a kayak paddle.

Nancy Updike

Oh, my god.

Jeb

To put them out.

Nancy Updike

You couldn't do it, cause-- cause your shoes were not standing up. Your shoes were--

Jeb

My legs were so sore.

Nancy Updike

Oh.

Jeb

No, my legs were sore.

Nancy Updike

Oh, your legs were sore. The shoes were holding up, but your legs were sore. Oh, my god, wow.

Jeb

Yeah.

Nancy Updike

Wow.

Jeb

My boots did melt. The soles of my boots were completely melted, partially because there was a tree that was on fire that was going to fall onto my house. So I was cutting it with a chainsaw to drop it, so it wouldn't fall the other direction.

And then I got to a point where it was almost about to fall, and I just said, you know what, this is not really safe. I'm standing in hot coals. And I've got a chainsaw, and I'm by myself, so-- under a tree that's on fire. So, I'm like, this is probably not the best idea. So, I just let it be.

Nancy Updike

Were there moments that were actually-- where you were frightened?

Dharma

Yes. I would say up by Jeb's house, watching it kind of-- the flames around Jeb's place were real-- were pretty-- were pretty intense. And they were really like-- I remember the-- I remember looking up at 60-- 60 foot flames, or 40, 50 foot flames, and just going, wow. And just hearing, and seeing the fire, the intenseness of fire.

Jeb

We were buying time. We were holding the fire back until the professionals got there, so we were hoping. But we were hoping as soon as possible that someone would be there with some engines. I mean, that's all I wanted to hear, was a helicopter or a fire engine.

Nancy Updike

Without cell phone service, they had no idea why no one was coming, hour after hour. This was the first day of the fire. They didn't know how bad it was going to get and how bad it already was.

Dharma

Is there anybody out there? I mean, we really felt like we were the only ones on the planet Earth at that point. And it was like, where's the help? Are we the only ones out here? You know, we're the only ones. Like where's everybody at?

Nancy Updike

The fight did not feel heroic at any point. It was a slog. They kept the fire away from as many buildings and houses as they could along that mile or so stretch of road. But they were never done. Some places had to be saved again and again.

Jeb's house was one of the few that was on the other side of the road, the side the fire was coming from. So, no road between his house and the fire. Jeb and Dharma would go to his house, fight the fire down, go tackle someplace else, come back to make sure the place was OK, and have to fight the fire down all over again.

Dharma's adrenaline wore off around 3:30 in the morning, after 7 and 1/2 hours of non-stop physical labor. He was crashing and his legs were seizing up. He and Jason went to Jason's house, which Sam had declared safe for the moment.

Dharma

I just had to put-- stretch my feet out for a second. That was the first time I got to get off my feet. And we ended up sitting on his couch for a few minutes, where we sort of dozed off for a second or so.

Nancy Updike

Jeb was frantically awake. He was up at his house, whack-a-moling fires, that over the course of the night went 360 degrees around his house.

Nancy Updike

Were you mad that they wanted to sleep?

Jeb

No, not really. I knew that we were all exhausted. But I just told them, I can't-- there's no way that I can go to sleep. So, they were like, we'll be back in an hour. By this time, two hours passed, and I was like, really guys, like--

Nancy Updike

Oh.

Jeb

At one point, I had Jason's truck, and I was by myself. And I pointed it down the driveway, and had engine idling, and I was just yelling into the air, like where is our help? I think there's a few other words that I won't say that were involved in that.

Nancy Updike

Later, in the weeks and months after the fire, this is the scene and feeling that Jeb kept dreaming about, fighting the fire at his house alone. The way Jeb and Dharma described the night, with the smoke blowing through, and this eerie warmth in the air, when it should have been chilly, because it was November, it sounded lonely in some core way, like every person, every creature in the canyon, was having its own personal battle with this thing.

Jeb

I saw this huge bear come running out of one of the little driveways. And he saw me and he ran right into the fire.

Nancy Updike

Oh, Jesus.

Jeb

Because I was driving towards him. The wildlife was freaking out. I saw a couple of deer with singed fur, and they just didn't know what to do. There was this little mouse at one point, that kept running towards the flames, and we would stop him and put him on the other side of the road. And he kept running back towards the flames. We're like, wait, guy, you're going the wrong way.

Nancy Updike

Finally, finally, around 11:00 AM, some friends from the area showed up with burritos and water.

Dharma

And I remember sitting on the side of the road, and I'm eating a little burrito. And then here comes, through the smoke-- I looked down, and through the smoke comes the fire department.

An out of town fire truck comes ripping through the smoke. And it was like, we hold our shovels up. We're like help has arrived. And I remember, like-- and the firefighters, they come up to us. And they stop their truck, you know, and the guy looks out the window. And I go-- I'm like, hey, man, there's a lot of homes up here. I'm glad you guys finally made it.

And I'm thinking he's going to be like, right on, guys, great job. He's like this is dangerous, what are you doing? You need to get out of here. And then he-- and drives off. So, we didn't get no welcome there. He was like, nah. He was like, you guys-- we're civilians, we weren't supposed to be there.

Nancy Updike

Yeah.

Dharma

That was I think their take. And it was pretty dangerous, so--

Nancy Updike

On that night, they must have been-- I mean, they probably had just come through some really harrowing sights.

Dharma

They really did. I mean, and then, because like, hours later, it was 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Jeb and I finally got-- we got a ride out. We were like pretty much delusional and tired. And we got a ride out of the canyon. And we saw the total devastation.

Jeb

We were in the country club, compared to the front lines, yeah. Yeah, it was definitely a realization of like, oh, I know why no one was here. You couldn't even get up here. And there was much more important places to be, and lives to save, you know.

But you don't think about that when you're in the moment of your own little bubble of your own neighborhood, you know.

Nancy Updike

Yeah.

Jeb

What's going on everywhere else.

Nancy Updike

Helltown is less than four miles from Paradise, which burned to the ground. Jeb and Dharma spent the whole exhausting night imagining, guessing, that they'd been overlooked. When they drove out, they saw the truth. They hadn't been overlooked. They'd been spared.

Ira Glass

Nancy Updike is one of the producers of our show. It took firefighters another two-plus days to fully save Helltown. In the end, according to Dharma, only two houses were lost in the area of the canyon around Helltown. Again, we heard about Helltown from Robert Baird's great story in GQ. It's going to be in the May issue of the magazine. And you can read it on the internet right now, online, at GQ.com.

Act Three: The Book of Death Is Long and Boring

Ira Glass

Act Three, The Book of Death is Long and Boring. So our show today is about being left behind when loved ones leave. And we'll close out our show with this, about the way people disappear all the time, and the place they go to when they're gone. David Kestenbaum explains.

David Kestenbaum

Imagine there was a book containing all the names of the dead, all the people who had lived, an enormous book, the last pages of which are blank. A half second passes, and a new name appears in the book, then another name, another name.

Actually, imagine the book had their Social Security numbers too. Because it does.

Mike Astrue

The Death Master File.

David Kestenbaum

It's quite a name.

Mike Astrue

It is quite a name, yes.

David Kestenbaum

The Death Master File.

Mike Astrue

It sounds a little like Star Wars or something, you know.

David Kestenbaum

It sounds like a book from the afterlife.

Mike Astrue

Yes.

David Kestenbaum

Mike Astrue used to be responsible for the Death Master File, and a whole bunch of other stuff. The Death Master File, to be clear, is not a book. It's just a computer file. The people who maintain it work in a building just outside of Baltimore. It's the headquarters of the Social Security Administration, which Astrue was the commissioner of for six years, under President Bush, and then Obama. The government started keeping track of the deaths in 1936. It began as paper records.

Mike Astrue

You know, it was just part of the wiring of the building. And nobody really thought about it. There would have been almost no one outside the agency, probably, that even knew that this existed.

David Kestenbaum

Some of the first names on the list, William M Gamble of Louisiana, Eson Bailey, West Virginia, Sidor Mullinar, Connecticut. They all died in 1936, which was the first year Social Security cards were issued, meaning they would have only had their numbers for a month or so before they died. William Gambles was 435-03-3049.

David Kestenbaum

How many names do you think are on it now?

Mike Astrue

It's probably, right now, in the range of about 100 million names.

David Kestenbaum

Wow.

Mike Astrue

Yeah.

David Kestenbaum

It was a creation of pure bureaucracy. We track births, we should track deaths. They are symmetrical events. But of course, the feelings associated with each couldn't be more different. The Death Master File became available to the public in 1980. Companies used it to detect fraud, to see if someone was trying to use a dead person's Social Security number. Anyway, one day Mike was at home and the phone rang.

Mike Astrue

One of my best friends in the world came to me, very sheepishly. And very careful to say, you know, don't do anything that legally and ethically you're not allowed to do. But my mother is upset that her father is not in the Death Master File.

David Kestenbaum

She'd been tracing out the family's history. And one resource people use to do that is the Death Master File. And somehow in that long list of millions of names, her father wasn't in there, which is not surprising. It's actually kind of tricky to know of everyone who dies. Someone has to notify the state where the person died.

Then the state has to submit the information to the federal government. And you know, states. But Mike had never heard of anyone complaining about not being on the list. He told his friend, let me see what I can do. And when he got to work-- remember, he was head of Social Security-- he went to talk to the people who actually managed the Death Master File.

Mike Astrue

I went down and talked to them. And they were puzzled, because first of all, no one had ever asked. And they did have the response-- well, you know, usually people are trying to get off the list, because the agency does accidentally declare a certain number of people dead who are not dead. And they're usually quite upset about that.

David Kestenbaum

Because all of a sudden, their credit cards don't work, or their ATM card. It's kind of a powerful list. The staff was used to taking people off the list. They had a term for that-- to undead, as in, he'll be undeaded by Friday, or we can't undead her without her Social Security number. In the end, it wasn't hard. If you can undead someone, you can certainly dead them. They deaded his friend's grandfather. Mike told his friend, who told his mom.

Mike Astrue

So what my friend told me was that it had been a very emotional moment when she realized that her father was in the Death Master File. And you know, and I got a very grateful, emotional letter from her.

David Kestenbaum

It's like, she just wanted him, like in that small way, not to be left out.

Mike Astrue

Yes, burial of the dead is important.

David Kestenbaum

What did it feel like to know that somebody felt that way about it? Like, when you were walking down the hall, you must have been like, oh, I never thought about this thing that way.

Mike Astrue

I think that the-- this particular story didn't really change my emotional connection to the Death Master File. But I understand it, and I respect it.

David Kestenbaum

When someone dies, they leave us behind. But we're also leaving them behind. It's natural to want some kind of marker. I think if you're going to collect the names of the dead, millions after millions of names, and then call that thing the Death Master File, it's more than just a government record. People are going to have feelings about it.

David Kestenbaum

It is kind of hard for me not to imagine the moment when my name gets added, you know. Like, there's a moment, it's going to happen, and then there will be another name right behind it, and then another, you know.

Mike Astrue

I guess. I guess that's right. I-- for whatever reason, I'm sort of immune to that feeling.

David Kestenbaum

Which, of course, is the ridiculous and remarkable thing about all of us. You can know about this list, maybe you're even the boss of it. And you can manage not to think about it at all.

Ira Glass

David Kestenbaum is one of the producers of our show.

Credits

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Lilly Sullivan. The people who put our show together includes Elna Baker, Ben Calhoun, Zoe Chace, and Chivvis, Sean Cole, Aviva DeKornfeld, Hillary Elkins, Jared Floyd, Damian Grave, Seth Lind, Mike Meek, Lena Misitzis, Stowe Nelson, Katharine Raimondo, Nadia Reiman, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, Nancy Updike, and Diane Wu. Our Managing Editor is David Kestenbaum.

Special thanks today to Kathy Hinckley, to Stephanie Teatro and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, to KC Curberson-Alvarado, Liz Neill, Robert Neill, Jackson Neill, Jonathan Burrello, Shira Rubin, Joseph Feit, Jeremy Feit, Negusi Alamu, Susan Pollack, Aster Yilma, Degu Abunie, Cassie Greene O'Hara, Kelefa Sanneh, and Sara Bohannon.

Our website, ThisAmericanLife.org, where you can stream our archive of over 670 episodes for absolutely free. Or you can download all those episodes, using the This American Life app. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, he really is a bit of a name dropper. His car broke down this week, I believe at a friend's house. And told me--

Victor

Like a garage of the Kennedys is probably better than most.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.