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A story of survival that forged a friendship: I felt safe holding on to you

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Friday is when we hear from StoryCorps, and we have the story of a friendship. In 2022, a gunman set off smoke grenades and opened fire on a subway car in Brooklyn, wounding many people. Mayra Kalisch and Eric Acevedo met in the aftermath. They lived two blocks from each other, but were strangers until that morning.

MAYRA KALISCH: I remember the smoke and people screaming. I looked over at you, and you must have seen the look on my face because you said, just hold on to me.

ERIC ACEVEDO: I said, don't worry. Don't look back. Whatever you do, just roll forward.

KALISCH: I never let go. You asked me for my name, and then I asked you for your name. Top of the stairs, we said goodbye. But every time that I went into the subway, I always went to that same exact spot. Because it had been months, and I had been hoping that I would see you again. And one day you were there.

ACEVEDO: You tapped me in the shoulder, and you were like, were you with me on that day?

KALISCH: (Laughter).

ACEVEDO: I was like, so surprised. And I was like, Can I give you a hug?

KALISCH: (Laughter).

ACEVEDO: And you were like, how have you been since then? And I was like, I haven't been so well.

KALISCH: When you told me that you had PTSD, like, I just felt so sad, and maybe I felt a little bit guilty because I had been able to push it aside because I had felt safe when I was holding on to you.

ACEVEDO: I don't want you ever feeling guilty. My life was, like, slightly crazy before getting on the train. My grandma started chemo in the weeks prior to that. And so on the day that you met me, I was thin as paper, but you held on to me, and I managed through. So when you told me how much I was present there for you, those words meant the world to me. And I'm glad that we're in each other's life now.

KALISCH: We have such a funny friendship because of the difference in age that we have - over 30 years. I was just thinking about the time my entire family was here. You were, like, part of the family.

ACEVEDO: Yeah. I made it to one of the pictures.

KALISCH: You made it in the pictures and everything.

ACEVEDO: That was awesome. After the diagnosis of PTSD, I silenced my life in a way. I put, like, a mute button on it. You're, like, increasing the volume in my life, right? You're giving it more sound and more music.

KALISCH: I feel like we were put in each other's lives for a reason, and I hope that we're going to be in each other's lives for many, many years.

ACEVEDO: I hope for that, too.

INSKEEP: Eric Acevedo and Mayra Kalisch - their conversation is archived with the other StoryCorps conversations at the Library of Congress. Hear more of their story on the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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