William Patrick Corgan On World Cafe

  • “Shiloh”
  • “Now and Then”
  • “Processional”

William Patrick Corgan would be the first to admit that many people’s image of him was locked down back in 1995 as Billy Corgan: frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkins had just released Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the album with the song “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” -– you know, the one where despite all his rage, he’s still just a rat in a cage? As Corgan tells me, that persona became something of a cage — or, at least, the trappings of fame did. The first time he ever walked a red carpet with Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan flipped the bird to the cameras who were trying to take his picture, and his relationship to the press has only gotten more complicated since.

But, as we often learn when we invite famous people in for interviews, Corgan is not who you may think he is. He’s not who I thought he was. His Smashing Pumpkins years involved playing parts in public; so did his childhood. As he explains in our conversation, he needed it to survive back then.

Corgan joined us in the studio to perform music from his new solo record called Ogilala. It was produced by Rick Rubin, who Corgan says brought the “sensitive Pisces guy” of the Siamese Dream era back into focus. We start our session with a new song called “Shiloh.” Hear Corgan with just his guitar, performing live at the World Cafe, in the player above.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

In Latest Twist, Anti-Doping Watchdog Says It Has Data Trove From Russian Lab

The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has acquired more than three years of testing data from the lab, in the building pictured here, which WADA says was the site of a state doping program of Russian athletes.

Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

In what may be the crucial missing piece in the investigation into the Russian state doping program, the World Anti-Doping Agency said it is in possession of the database of test results from Russia’s anti-doping laboratory.

WADA says the “enormous backup file” covers all the testing data from January 2012 to August 2015. That period includes the 2014 Sochi Olympics, at which Russia dominated the medal stands.

The New York Timesreports that according to two sources with direct knowledge, the electronic file was handed over by a whistleblower, not through official channels.

Last summer, an independent WADA investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren confirmed widespread and institutionalized doping before, after and during the Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. WADA says the freshly acquired database, which Russian officials have refused to hand over, will allow the agency to cross-reference the McLaren findings.

In his report, McLaren explained how the scheme was carried out:

“In total violation of the WADA International Standard for Laboratories (“ISL”) all analytical positives appearing on the first sample screen at the Moscow laboratory were reported up to the Deputy Minister after the athlete’s name had been added to the information to be supplied. The order would come back from the Deputy Minister ‘SAVE’ or ‘QUARANTINE’. If the order was a SAVE the laboratory personnel were required to report the sample negative in WADA’s Anti-Doping Management System (‘ADAMS’). Then the laboratory personnel would falsify the screen result in the Laboratory Information Management System (‘LIMS’) to show a negative laboratory result. The athlete benefited from the cover up determined and directed by the Deputy Minister of Sport and could continue to compete dirty.”

Over at the Times, you can see photos of the hole in the laboratory wall through which positive urine samples were swapped with clean ones.

“The subterfuge included using table salt and Nescafé instantcoffee granules to help conceal tainted urine and bypass controls, according to the inquiry,” the newspaper reported. “Some samples were clearly fraudulent: Urine provided by two female hockey players at the Sochi Games contained male DNA.”

WADA says it will finalizing its forensic analysis of the database before its board meetings next week.

The new intelligence could have major implications for Russia’s participation in the upcoming Winter Games in Pyeongchang, just three months away. The International Olympic Committee said it will decide next month what to do about Russia’s participation in Pyeongchang.

When the initial McLaren report was released in July 2016, it led to the banning of more than 100 Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics.

Russia’s Ministry of Sport did not immediately reply to NPR’s request for comment, but Russian officials have been consistent in calling the doping charges politically motivated.

“All of Russian sport finds itself under pressure, under political pressure,” Russia Olympic Committee deputy director Igor Kazikov said on Friday, according to the Associated Press, adding that most IOC cases against Russia’s athletes were “baseless and unsubstantiated.”

This month, the IOC banned six Russian cross-country skiers for life. In response, Reuters reports, Russia cross-country skiing federation president Elena Valbe said the move “has … absolutely nothing to do with sport. … For me, it’s (political).”

The Timesreports today that McLaren had warned in his report,

“without access to Russia’s lab data and forensic analysis of it, the extent of similar discrepancies and the full scope of cheating could not possibly be known.

“But if the database now in the regulator’s possession reveals new inconsistencies in the testing histories of Russian athletes, sports officials could mount strong disciplinary cases.

“Without a positive drug test, it can be challenging to build a case against an athlete that will withstand a legal challenge. To date, Olympics officials have issued sanctions against six Russian Olympians who competed in Sochi and exonerated another; investigations into scores of others are continuing.”

The anti-doping regulator declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency noncompliant in November 2015. To be reinstated, the watchdog has asked for Moscow authorities to accept the findings of the McLaren report and provide access to the Russian lab’s data and samples.

“This new intelligence serves to reinforce our requirement of Russian authorities that they too publicly accept the outcomes; so that, we can all move forward in rebuilding public trust and confidence in Russian sport,” WADA President Craig Reedie said t0day in a statement.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Episode 672: Bagging the Birkin

The Birkin Croco is made of dyed crocodile skin.

Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

There are people with Birkin bags, and then there are the rest of us. This purse, made by the French luxury brand Hermès, averages $60,000. It’s a little boxy. It comes in just about every color. Each bag is handmade, and Hermès staff apprentice for years before they can produce a Birkin.

The Birkin has been the “it” bag for decades, but Birkin owners have more than just a nice purse. They also have a story, of how they came to own one of the most elusive bags on the market. If you want to buy a Birkin, you can’t just go to a store. You have to go through a bunch of elaborate rituals. And even then, it can take months, or years, to actually see a Birkin in person.

Today on the show, we head to the Upper East Side on a quest for a Birkin bag. We find ourselves in a world where the normal rules of commerce are totally upside down.

Music: “Trendy Shopping” and “Make Me Better.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Did Zika Cause More Miscarriages Than Microcephaly?

A woman who is eight months pregnant in Recife, Brazil. The Zika virus has been rampant in this region.

Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

After the Zika virus turned up in Brazil two years ago, hundreds of babies were born with severe brain damage and underdeveloped skulls — a birth defect known as microcephaly.

The reports of microcephaly terrified pregnant women and prompted Brazil to declare a national health emergency.

But researchers in the central Brazilian state of Sao Paulo now say that Zika may be more likely to produce a miscarriage than a baby with a smaller than normal head.

Dr. Benedito Fonseca, a professor of internal medicine at the School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto in Sao Paulo, says that back in 2015, people worried in part because Zika was a mysterious disease that had never been detected before in Brazil. “In that time every pregnant woman wanted to know what was going to happen with their pregnancy,” he says.

Little was known about the virus and the effects it could have on a developing fetus — or even what the relationship was between Zika and microcephaly.

Women who came down with Zika also appeared to be having miscarriages at a higher rate than normal but even that wasn’t clear.

So last year Dr. Fonseca set out to track the pregnancies of nearly 1,200 women in his home city of Ribeirão Preto in the state of Sao Paulo.

Over the course of their pregnancies, 178 of the women tested positive for Zika exposure. Nine of the Zika-positive women lost their babies due to miscarriages while only four gave birth to babies with microcephaly.

Fonseca says the severity of the viral infections caused the miscarriages: “The infections were so bad there was no way for the pregnancy to go on. Their own body just terminated the pregnancy due to the zika infection.”

Rubella is another examples of a viral infection during pregnancy that crosses the placenta, infects the fetus and can lead to higher than normal rates of miscarriage.

Because Fonseca had 1,125 pregnant women enrolled in the study, he could see that the rate of miscarriage — nine out of 178 Zika-positive mothers — was far higher than among the women who never tested positive for the virus. There were only two spontaneous abortions among the 947 Zika-negative women. So roughly five percent of the Zika-positive mothers had miscarriages versus fewer than 0.2 percent of the other women. Most of these women entered the study after their first trimester, when most spontaneous abortions occur, which could be part of why the overall miscarriage rate was so low.

The microcephaly findings also surprised the researchers. Among the Zika-positive mothers, there were four babies born with microcephaly. Among the much larger group of women who showed no signs of Zika there were two cases of microcephaly.

“I thought we’d find a lot of microcephaly but I wasn’t expecting such a high rate of miscarriages,” Dr. Fonseca said just before presenting his findings this week at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual convention in Baltimore.

“It’s true that babies with microcephaly will have a big impact in terms of long-term care. But we have to also really deal with the short-term care of these women who are having miscarriages,” he says. Some may miscarry at home. He warns that these mothers are at increased risk for infections and that Zika could potentially lead to a rise in maternal mortality.

Albert Ko, a researcher from Yale who’s been studying the Zika outbreak in Northeast Brazil since it first emerged, says there may have been a rash of Zika-related miscarriages in the spring and early summer of 2015 that went unnoticed.

When Zika first hit in early 2015, the symptoms of the disease were fairly mild. It wasn’t until nine months later when babies started being born with abnormally small heads that health officials and the public became concerned. If during that first wave of the outbreak, Zika was causing a spike in miscarriages, that spike would have occurred before the public alarm about the disease had been raised.

“That adverse outcome [miscarriage] of Zika infection, we probably missed it,” Ko says. “We probably missed it because we don’t have very good surveillance systems especially for women in the public sector health-care system in Brazil.” Some women may have miscarried at home and not gone to a doctor. A miscarriage can also look like an induced abortion, which is illegal in Brazil, so that too could have led to an under-reporting of the phenomenon.

“It’s a very sensitive issue in Brazil,” Ko says.

So in early 2015, health officials simply weren’t looking for miscarriages linked to Zika.

As quickly as the Zika outbreak emerged, it now is subsiding.

In May of this year the Brazilian government declared the Zika health emergency to be over.

Fonseca says in Ribeirão Preto, a city of 650,000 people, Zika disappeared as abruptly as it arrived.

“Last year in our city we had over 7,000 cases of Zika,” he says. “This year we didn’t have any. None.”

But he warns that this does not mean that the threat of Zika has evaporated.

Fonseca says it appears that in places where Zika was rampant in 2015 and 2016, people developed immunity to the disease and infections plummeted. But Zika wasn’t rampant everywhere across Brazil.

“Let’s just take Sao Paulo State,” he says. “If you plot the data there are a few cities where Zika hit hard but there are a lot of places where there was almost no Zika whatsoever. So in those places, they’re still at risk of having Zika.”

He says public health officials are going to have to be on guard for Zika outbreaks for years to come.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

'Annotated African American Folktales' Reclaims Stories Passed Down From Slavery

Browsing through a weighty new anthology called The Annotated African-American Folk Tales is a journey across space and time. In one chapter called “Defiance and Desire,” there’s a section devoted to flying Africans, where there’s a lyric that I was familiar with from a song Paul Robeson recorded many years ago — “All God’s Chillun Got Wings.”

There were also folktales told by slaves of newly arrived Africans — who, unlike the slaves, had not yet lost the ability to fly; stories of Africans who escaped slavery by flying back to Africa. The anthology is edited by two Harvard professors: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar.

“[These folktales] have that magical quality,” Tatar says. “They give us mysteries wrapped in enigmas inside riddles. We have to respond to them. We have to figure them out.”

Interview Highlights

On the importance of flying Africans in folktales

Gates: The relationship between flying, freedom, and death is one of the curious things about the African-American oral tradition, that you would fly away, as Paul Robeson just so beautifully sang, but you fly away after death to heaven. You know, it wasn’t a kind of magic carpet when you go to another world and then return to your previous life. It was a transition in the literal sense of going from one realm of existence to another, and these stories are told with an enormous amount of admiration and respect, but also it’s a musing about a form of suicide — that it was better to will yourself back home to Africa, will yourself back to the other side of the Atlantic, than to live the social death of human bondage here in the United States.

On the complicated history of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories

Gates: Joel Chandler Harris did an enormous service. We can debate the fact that, well, he certainly wasn’t a black man, and we could debate what his motivation was, and we can wonder, did African-Americans receive any percentage or share of the enormous profit that he made? The answer is absolutely not. But on the other hand, a lot of these tales would have been lost without Joel Chandler Harris.

Tatar: I was going to present the counter argument that is, did he kill African-American folklore? Because after all, if you look at the framed narrative, who is Uncle Remus telling the stories to? A little white boy, and so suddenly this entire tradition has been appropriated for white audiences, and made charming rather than subversive and perilous, dangerous — stories that could be told only at nighttime when the masters were not listening.

Gates: But think about it this way: It came into my parlor, it came into my bedroom, through the lips of a black man, my father, who would have us read the Uncle Remus tales but within a whole different context, and my father, can we say, re-breathed blackness into those folktales. So it’s a very complicated legacy.

On the continued legacy of these folktales

Gates: It’s like links in a chain, and these chains go back hundreds of years from, starting today, back through the written tradition, crossing over to the oral tradition. And our job, people like us, people like Maria and me, our job is to put them in a form in which they can be consumed by a whole new generation.

Tatar: I see these stories as a way of listening to the ancestry, as Toni Morrison would put it. And then I hope that this book will be a platform for making the stories new, making them our own again.

Gates: And that’s precisely why we have two sets of dedications, Maria’s and mine. And my dedication says “This volume is dedicated to Eleanor Margaret Gates-Hatley: L’dor va’dor,” meaning generation to generation. That’s my three-year-old granddaughter, and I want these tales to be hers just like my father made these tales mine.

This story was edited for radio by Fatma Tanis and Emily Kopp, and adapted for the Web by Sydnee Monday and Petra Mayer.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

New Museum Invites Visitors To 'Engage' With The Bible

The Museum of the Bible is located near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The entrance is flanked by large bronze doors re-creating the first page of the Book of Genesis.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

The newest museum in Washington, D.C., is a $500 million institution dedicated to a single book.

The privately funded Museum of the Bible, set to open Nov. 17, will focus on biblical history, biblical stories and the Bible’s impact on the world.

“We only have one mission statement,” says Cary Summers, the museum president, “and that is to engage people with the Bible.”

Summers and other museum officials insist the institution has no sectarian or evangelical agenda, even though the museum is largely the brainchild of Steve Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby — the family-owned craft store chain known for supporting conservative Christian causes.

“We try to create the contextual setting,” says Cary Summers, the Museum of the Bible’s president. “We want to say, ‘Here’s what it looked like; here’s how it felt to be there.’ ”

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

The museum is housed in a former refrigerated warehouse a few blocks from the National Mall. It incorporates 430,000 square feet of interactive and high-tech exhibits, some of them with experiential features that rival those of a theme park.

Visitors can tour the museum with the help of programmable electronic guides. Users can specify which topics or periods interest them and how much time they can spend in the museum, and the device will suggest a particular tour. It will track the users’ location, describe what they’re seeing, and even urge visitors to speed up if they begin to dawdle.

A Bible on display

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

In the section of the museum focusing on the New Testament, visitors see a re-creation of the village of Nazareth, where the Bible says Jesus was raised, made to appear as it existed in the first century. Dozens of scholars and archaeologists from both the United States and Israel provided expert input on the design of the exhibit.

The dwellings are made of Palestinian limestone, and the olive trees in the gardens match those that flourished in Jesus’ time. A soundtrack of chirping birds and braying donkeys runs in the background; the sounds were actually recorded in current-day Nazareth. Museum docents in period dress will explain how the parables found in the Bible drew on the daily life experiences of the people to whom Jesus preached.

“We try to create the contextual setting,” Summers says. “We want to say, ‘Here’s what it looked like; here’s how it felt to be there.’ “

Limestone dwellings and olive trees make up a scene representing Nazareth during Jesus’ time.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

Though the founders and many staff members of the museum are evangelical Christians, the designers have taken pains not to favor their own interpretation of the Bible or that of any other faith tradition.

“There’s not just one Bible, says Seth Pollinger, the museum’s director of content. “We lay out 11 traditions or claims.”

“We can say, ‘the Bible,’ but we have realized this is at times offensive to Jewish audiences,” Pollinger says. “They say, ‘You’re speaking from a Christian perspective. You’re including the New Testament, but we don’t.’ So we’re working hard to find ways to nuance it. We don’t feel a need to steer people to ‘The Answer’ or ‘The Bible.’ “

Visitors learn about the development of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Old Testament to Christians, by walking through a richly detailed exhibit that begins with the story of Abraham and ends with the Book of Ruth. That section includes many ancient artifacts and manuscripts, some acquired by the Green family over many years of collecting and some on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The lobby features a 140-foot digital mosaic that rotates through different images.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

Other exhibits have come from the Vatican’s collection, along with dozens of other museums around the world. The museum directors have contracted with scholars and experts from a wide variety of fields, and they have funded archaeological research and other investigations in several institutions.

Despite these efforts to show institutional independence, the Museum of the Bible has encountered skepticism from some scholars and other critics. Much of it has focused on the role the Green family has played in the funding and development of the museum. Through Hobby Lobby Inc., its privately owned company, the billionaire family has amassed a private collection of about 40,000 artifacts and manuscripts from biblical lands, and the museum has drawn heavily on the Green collection in its own displays.

Many of the materials acquired by the Greens were purchased privately on the global antiquities market, which routinely includes items that have been looted or forged. Hundreds of thousands of items, for example, have been looted from Iraq in recent years and made their way to the global market. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine and forfeit a collection of smuggled Iraqi cuneiform tablets and clay seals that the U.S. government considered forgeries.

“It’s the museum’s responsibility to ensure that [the authenticity of] what they put on display is adequately represented,” says Morag Kersel, an anthropology professor at DePaul University who specializes in the antiquities market. “At least they need to tell the story, so that people who visit can make up their own minds whether the artifacts are real.”

The Museum of the Bible is a legally separate entity from the craft store chain, and museum officials insist that their standards for acquiring items are just as strict as any other institution’s.

“People confuse the Hobby Lobby collection with ours,” says Summers. “We scrutinize every item that we take in, to make sure it meets all the standards.”

The museum features exhibits on the history of the Bible and its impact today.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

Critics have also suspected the museum has an implicit evangelical Christian agenda reflective of the Greens’ own perspective. The family is known for having convinced the Supreme Court that the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, as applied to Hobby Lobby, violated their right to uphold their religious beliefs.

“I would say the Green family has been more successful at impacting religion in the public square here in America than any other recent group,” says Candida Moss, co-author of Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,a book about the family’s efforts to promote conservative Christian causes. “Think of their lawsuit. They tried to put a Bible curriculum in public schools. So I would not underestimate the impact of this museum on people who come to visit it.”

Steve Green was unavailable for comment.

Beneath a mid-19th century painting, the museum displays manuscripts from early American writers, highlighting their Scriptural references.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

“They never tried to impose their point of view, which is an evangelical point of view, on this museum, ever,” Summers insists. To allege otherwise, he says, is “blatantly not true.”

Summers does acknowledge that the museum’s board members, including Steve Green, the chairman, have all been asked to sign a statement of faith regarding the truth of the Bible. “You want a common language,” Summers says. “We take it as [a statement of] Judeo-Christian principles. We’re going to operate by the Bible. We believe in the Bible.”

The museum displays the known translations of the Bible. The yellow boxes represent those languages in which no Bible translation is available.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

The museum directors say they have made a determined effort to keep their own religious convictions separate from the design of the museum. “We just talk about the Bible itself,” Summers says. “We don’t say it’s ‘inspired’ or go down that road. We’re just going to present it. We’re not putting a spin on it.”

The museum clearly does have a viewpoint of its own, most evident in its discussion of the historical importance of the Bible and its impact in the world.

One exhibit focuses on the Bible’s influence on America’s founders. Display cases include examples of early Colonial writing, highlighting the Scriptural references. A placard next to the cases says the Bible “has had a profound impact on American history, culture, and politics” and “helped inspire the country’s ideas about democracy.”

This exhibit depicts the Bible’s influence on American history.

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

A subject that gets scant attention at the museum is the impact of the Bible on the development of Islam. Muslims recognize Abraham and other biblical figures as prophets in their faith tradition, just as Jews and Christians do.

“We have worked on a few connecting points [to Islam] that we recognize as important,” Pollinger says, “and I think we’ll expand more and more. We will have discussions with Muslim leaders to have more understanding of these points of contact.”

On the eve of the museum’s opening, its directors are confident that visitors will appreciate an institution devoted exclusively to the story of the best-selling book in the history of the world.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Kenneth Branagh On His Meticulous Master Detective Role In 'Murder On The Orient Express'

Actor Kenneth Branagh has been Henry the Fifth, Iago in Othello, Victor Frankenstein, and now he’s taken on another famous literary character, Agatha Christie’s meticulous master detective, Hercule Poirot. Branagh both stars and directs the latest version of Murder on the Orient Express and talks with NPR’s Kelly McEvers about the project.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

With Shiny Pink And Camo, Casket Designer Honors Texas Shooting Victims

A casket is painted shiny pink for a little girl who died in Sunday’s massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Nathan Rott/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

In the middle of the showroom at Trey Ganem Designs, is a small casket on a rolling cart. It’s not yet fully assembled, but it’s painted a dazzling, sparkling pink.

The casket is for a little girl – one of the 26 lives lost in Sunday’s massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“Her dad just said, ‘that’s my princess,” Trey Ganem says, so Ganem is building her a princess casket to be laid to rest.

Ganem, who creates customized caskets in a tiny Texas town about two hours away from Sutherland Springs, has offered to build caskets for the victims of the shooting, free-of-charge to their families.

“This is something we want to take off their hands,” he says. “And hopefully it will be something for them to celebrate about.”

When most people see caskets, they see death, Ganem says. “Our caskets, you see the life of the person that’s in it.”

Trey Ganem builds customized caskets designed to represent and celebrate a person’s life. “When you look at our caskets, you see the story of the person that’s in it,” he says.

Nathan Rott/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

His shop and showroom in Edna, Texas, is filled with incredibly detailed coffins – there’s one painted like the Texas state flag; another like a Louis Vuitton bag; and another still, shaped and painted like a bright red ’57 Chevy, complete with working headlights.

To build a customized coffin, you have to know the person who will be in it, Ganem says.

For the last few days, Ganem and his assistant Tiffany Sublett have been talking to funeral home directors and families of the deceased. They take down notes – double checking the spelling of the victims’ names; asking about favorite colors, movies and pets.

“Does she have a favorite character on My Little Pony that’s her favorite, do you know?” Sublett asks the funeral home director for Sutherland Springs during a phone call.

The notes she writes are heart-breaking.

“Star Wars.”





“I have a two-year old son and I’m pregnant,” Sublett says. “So, I mean, it’s all sad. It’s tragic. The amount of small children that are gone and the stories, just hearing and talking to the families. It’s definitely emotional.”

And chronicling those lives is especially difficult when it hits so close to home.

There are about two degrees of separation here in South Texas, so Ganem knows some people who live in Sutherland Springs and went to the church.

“I had just got finished from helping some of the Las Vegas victims and, you know, I just left that,” he says. “And to come back here and think this is Texas, a small town, to hear [about the attack] was just unreal.”

Ganem has since spent some time at a hospital with family, who were waiting and praying for other family members that were injured. Sublett has been working the phones.

Kenneth Burnett and Maggie Rivera sand a casket, readying it for a pink camouflage paint job at the shop in Edna, Texas. The woman it’s for loved to hunt.

Nathan Rott/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Michael Rivera, who normally paints cars for a living, is volunteering in the shop to help paint the caskets and their parts.

Nathan Rott/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

For Maggie Rivera, the reality of what had happened didn’t fully hit her until she walked into Ganem’s shop. She and her husband, Michael, drove down here from San Antonio to volunteer their time and help.

“The first casket they gave us was a little 4 x 6 one, and in the corner over there, there’s the little toy from Cars – Mater – and Mickey Mouse and that’s my son’s favorite,” she says. “I just had to take a moment to sit back.”

One of the victims was 17 months old. The Rivera’s have an 18-month old son at home.

“It really puts things in perspective,” she says, sanding a casket to prepare it for painting.

In the back of the shop, Michael Rivera walks out of a heated room where he’s been painting handles for one of the caskets. He’s got blue paint staining the palms of his hands. Nearly the rest of his body is covered in tattoos.

Michael paints cars for a living normally – hot rods, motorcycles and trucks.

“I’d never painted a coffin before in my life,” he says, pouring metallic-silver paint into a spray-gun.

But he and his wife decided to volunteer as soon as they heard that Ganem was offering the families free caskets. Michael grew up in Sutherland Springs and he, like his wife, is shaken by the shooting.

He gestures to the shiny pink casket on the showroom floor.

“I know that’s for a six-year old little girl. And that’s hard to even imagine,” he says. “For lack of better words, it just sucks. It’s for a little kid at the beginning of their life.”

Rivera, like everyone at the shop, is hopeful that their efforts will help the families of the victims begin the long process of healing. In the meantime, working and doing something positive, he says, is helping them.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)