Intro from Jay Allison: Sometimes an interview blossoms and reveals depths you couldn’t have imagined when it began. That’s how this piece by Bianca Giaever feels. It’s utterly simple: a gentle conversation outdoors with the birds in the trees, that moves into a profound story about race, family, murder, transformation… and forgiveness. Bianca spent this summer with us as an intern here at Transom, Atlantic Public Media, and WCAI. She did fine work making Sonic IDs, and we’re featuring some of them along with this remarkable story.
I stumbled upon this story on a long distance bike trip, while I was doing a radio project on veterans’ experiences at war. As you can see, this story has nothing to do with veterans or war. It just goes to show that sometimes you just need an excuse to be out there looking for stories and something wonderful will eventually pop up. We were staying the night at a gay and queer commune in rural Tennessee when someone pointed out Hector to me. They explained that Hector had forgiven the man who murdered his daughter.
As a radio producer armed with that enormous factoid, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I’ve been living in civil society long enough to know it isn’t acceptable to approach a stranger and blurt out “Hey, I heard you forgave the man who murdered your daughter can I interview you about that?” I ended up chatting with Hector and asking him if he had a couple of hours to sit down and tell me all about his life. He was also a veteran, so I could interview him for my project as well. He’s told his story of forgiveness many times, so we transitioned into it easily.
I liked Hector’s narrative because it subtly challenged my beliefs and raised larger questions on forgiveness. I knew forgiveness was a good thing, but how far could you really take it? Weren’t some things just unforgiveable? And of course, I wondered if I would be able to do the same thing if I were in his shoes. I also love the moments in the piece when you can hear him continuing to wrestle with these questions, even after so much time has passed. I was inspired by his refusal to accept stagnancy even in old age.
Say no to stagnancy.
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I’ll blame it on my young age and the bicycle I was living on, but this story wasn’t recorded as well as I wish it had been. First of all, there were hardly any quiet indoor places on the commune I could go into, so we had to do the interview outside. This meant that while Hector was contemplating the meaning of forgiveness people were talking in the background, birds were squawking, and a guy pushing a lawn mower was circling us. Because of these horrible background noises I put noise reduction on the audio while editing, a questionable decision that I’m still considering reversing in the future. Lastly, my most embarrassing tech mistake is that the audio was recorded in mp3, because the trip was long and SD card space was limited. For this interview I used an Olympus LS-10 recorder with a built in microphone. Again, I wish it had been recorded with an external mic, though at the time I probably wasn’t even aware that I should own one.
Editor’s Note: Bianca interned with us at Atlantic Public Media this summer and she produced a whole bunch of sonic IDs. Turns out she has a knack for it. We thought we’d share a few of her sonics here.