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Prologue

Reporter Mark Arax spent three years investigating the murder of his father and yet he's still not at peace when he thinks of his dad's death. (His book is called In My Father's Name: A Family, a Town, a Murder.) This is how it goes sometimes.

Act One: The Disappearance

Genevieve Jurgensen and her husband Laurent lost their two daughters, Elise and Mathilde, at the ages of 4 and 7. Actress Felicity Jones reads from Jurgensen's book, The Disappearance: A Memoir of Loss, in which Jurgensen tries to explain her children's lives and their deaths to a friend through a series of letters.

Act Two: Look For The Union Label

A father and daughter (Adrian LeBlank and his daughter Adrian Le Blank) decide to write his obituary—together—not really thinking very seriously at first about the real meaning of what they were doing.

Act Three: Take My Wife, Please

Some of us have tragedy thrust upon us. Some of us allow ourselves a few moments to contemplate the worst that could happen.

Act Two: How We Got Here

We hear the history of why these drug laws were enacted from a firsthand witness. Eric Sterling was the lawyer in charge of drug laws for the House Judiciary Committee during the 1980s, when mandatory minimums were put in place.

Act Two: Silent Partner

Sean Cole visits Chad's Trading Post in Southampton, Massachussetts. One person who works there wears a shirt that says "Chad's Brother;" other shirts say "Chad's Best Friend," "Chad's Cousin," "Chad's Father." Pictures of Chad are everywhere.

Act Two: Humanitarians

Modern-day fables of two different kinds of do-gooders during and after the 1994 genocide in the African country of Rwanda. Philip Gourevich, author of the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, tells first about international relief workers who served as "caterers" to some of the Hutu powers as they continued their policy of ethnic cleansing after fleeing to refugee camps.

Prologue

The tendency toward self-reinvention is so deep in American culture that we have an entire industry, a self-help industry, telling us how to transform ourselves into someone new. And usually, we see this as a positive thing.

Act One: Actions Speak Louder

Sarah Vowell tells the story of Page Smith and Eloise Pickard Smith. They were married for over five decades, and died a day apart.

Act Two: The Unknown Soldier

Forty-five people read Luc Sante's story The Unknown Soldier, in which we hear about people's final moments, final thoughts.

Act Five: Black Box

We go through transcripts from those black box flight recorders recovered from airplane crashes to see what people say. One pilot declares "I love you" to someone, another is doing his job like always and suddenly says, "uh-oh." It's an interview with Malcolm McPherson, author of The Black Box: All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts of In-Flight Accidents.

Act Six: What Goes Through Your Head

Writer Tobias Wolff reads his story "Bullet in the Brain" from his collection of stories The Night in Question, about a bank robbery and a man who's shot, and what he thinks about before he dies.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with a guy who hit the road after his mother's death, hoping for some experience that would change him and shed light on what had just happened. This never happens to him, or to most of us.

Act Two: Gangster's Daughter

Susan Berman, author of the memoir Easy Street, the True Story of a Gangster's Daugher, reads from her book about her father Davie Berman, a Jewish gangster and one of the men — with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel — who created modern Las Vegas. (7 minutes) Act Two continues after the break.

Act Three: Reverb

Ellery Eskelin never met his father but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father's death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of "song-poems." These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, "Send us your lyrics, and we'll write and record your song." Ellery's father's musical output was prodigious — and very odd.