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Personal Journeys


Mother of reinvention

This is not supposed to be my life. The me I planned to be is slipping on a pair of designer shoes while my husband serves our children breakfast in the kitchen of our Cambridge townhouse. On the way to my first appointment of the day with a client at the Boston Women’s Health Collective, I drop my kids off at school while mentally outlining my latest article on feminist therapy.   Instead...
‘The Blood of Emmett Till’

‘The Blood of Emmett Till’

Murdered teen’s legacy endures from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter. A book excerpt. By Timothy B. Tyson.
Outside looking in

Outside looking in

AJC reporter Ellen Eldridge struggles with the helplessness of watching a tragedy unfold on Facebook.
Hard-earned scars

Hard-earned scars

The Rev. James Brewer-Calvert, senior pastor at Decatur First Christian Church, discovered he had colon cancer 10 years after his father, also a pastor, died from the same disease.
The man with the red, red beard

The man with the red, red beard

Kyle Brooks' whimsical street art has made him a darling of corporate Atlanta.
Healing touch

Healing touch

A mysterious illness changes the course of a hospital chaplain's life.
Life of Brian

Life of Brian

As Manuel's Tavern prepares to reopen, owner Brian Maloof looks for ways to bring his love of farming to the table.
Reclaimed lives

Reclaimed lives

Troubled siblings find success in lessons rooted in grandfather’s teachings, using reclaimed wood to build furniture.
Personal Journeys past

Personal Journeys past

Personal Journeys is now in its fourth year and any trepidation that we might run out of compelling stories to tell has been proven unfounded so far. Here are four very different stories about extraordinary people who are charting new territory in their lives and giving it their all.
Remembering Frank

Remembering Frank

A friend memorializes Frank Barham’s life by finishing the journey cut tragically short last year.
Grandmother of the year

Grandmother of the year

Like 100,000 grandparents in Georgia, Loretta Jenkins is raising grandchildren, and every day is a challenge.
Usher for the ages

Usher for the ages

Walter Banks looks back over his 50 years with the Atlanta Braves.
Keeper of the island

Keeper of the island

Centenarian Sandy West wants to live out her days on Ossabaw Island, but time may be running out.
The fixer

The fixer

Jane Warring helped move Leon Sims out of his bug-infested apartment and into her heart.
Journeys revisited

Journeys revisited

An update on four extraordinary people who follow the beat of their own drums.
Delta retiree and veteran lacrosse ref gets top honor for mechanics

Delta retiree and veteran lacrosse ref gets top honor for mechanics

Luis Diaz, a veteran lacrosse official and a Delta Air Lines retiree who was featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Personal Journeys series in January, received a prestigious lifetime achievement award for mechanics from the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday. Called the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, the honor recognizes the accomplishments of senior mechanics. Taylor...
Vanished

Vanished

How the mysterious disappearance of Sherron Lankester’s son nearly destroyed her.
Fixing to die

Fixing to die

Battle with deadly superbug upends writer’s life. He’s one of the lucky ones.
Legacy of loss

Legacy of loss

Leslie Mackinnon's grief over relinquishing her sons for adoption inspires her passion to change the process.
Silver linings playbook

Silver linings playbook

Milton couple confront loss and grief after losing a child to a rare genetic disorder.
Uno the therapy dog

Uno the therapy dog

Chaplain's four-legged colleague is on the job, helping children heal.
Rock bottom

Rock bottom

Ulysses Elijah’s road to redemption began with a tragic fall.
'Emma Is a boy'

'Emma Is a boy'

An Alpharetta mom adapts to life with a transgender child. Winner of the second annual Personal Journeys Writing Contest.
The bombardier's legacy

The bombardier's legacy

A cache of old letters inspires Ross Greene to retrace a war hero’s fatal path.
The thrill-seeker

The thrill-seeker

Marietta resident Mike Grigsby has conquered the seven summits of the world and now eyes another adventure.
Off the beaten path

Off the beaten path

Couple abandons the 9-5 for Costa Rica and discovers a sweet spot for chocolate.
Faith in Atlanta

Faith in Atlanta

As Atlanta diversifies, Sunday isn’t the only day of worship anymore.  This photo essay by Curtis Compton takes a look at Atlanta changing religious landscape.
Aimee’s odyssey

Aimee’s odyssey

Part I: Infected by a flesh-eating bacteria, Aimee Copeland fights for her life.
Aimee's odyssey

Aimee's odyssey

Part II: Aimee Copeland adapts to a new way of life and gets her joy back.
Band of daughters

Band of daughters

Two strangers unite to retrace their enigmatic fathers’ march across Europe as POWs in WWII.
The warrior puppy

The warrior puppy

Starved and abandoned as a puppy, Xena cheats death to change lives.
The bandit's daughter

The bandit's daughter

Writer Molly Brodak comes to terms with growing up in the shadow of her bank-robber dad.

Shooting stars

Robb Cohen has spent more than a decade of capturing a wide variety of musical artists for the AJC.

The fixer

Jane Warring helped move Leon Sims out of his bug-infested apartment and into her heart.

'Sing to Me'

Excerpt from the new memoir by music industry legend Antonio 'LA' Reid.

Reclaimed lives

Troubled siblings find success in lessons rooted in their grandfather’s teachings.

Fixing to die

Battle with deadly superbug upends writer’s life. He’s one of the lucky ones.

Hope and faith

A photo of in utero surgery made Samuel Armas famous before he was even born. He continues to astonish today.

Grandmother of the year

Like 100,000 grandparents in Georgia, Loretta Jenkins is raising grandchildren, and every day is a challenge.

Going once, going twice

After 50 years of collecting vintage vehicles, music boxes, jukeboxes, Houdini memorabilia and more, auctioneer Preston Evans is set to pound his gavel one last time.

'Alligator Candy'

The death of his brother prompts a man to go back and investigate his memory of the events. An excerpt from journalist David Kushner's memoir about the 1973 murder of his big brother in Tampa, Fla.

Curses and blessings

A devastating motorcycle accident saves Tim Keel’s life by revealing a deadly secret.

'The Underdogs'

Tethered to a service dog, twins with autism find freedom. An exclusive book excerpt by Melissa Fay Greene.

Some gumshoes die hard

Despite a knack for sniffing out the truth, the answer private eye Bob Poulnot wants most still eludes him.

Becoming Jericho Brown

How the poet endured a violent childhood, got a new name and received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Making amends

Georgia-born war veteran returns to Vietnam to help clean up the mess left behind.

Mom on a mission

Stephanie Stone was thrust into action by the senseless death of her son.

Fear and gratitude

A worrywart mom learns to let go when her son battles brain cancer

Usher for the ages

Walter Banks looks back over his 50 years with the Atlanta Braves.

Two hearts, worlds apart

Laura Haley was looking for purpose. She found it and a whole lot more in Uganda.

'Remain Free'

How a death-row inmate changed the life of an Alpharetta teen. A book excerpt by Gautam Narula.

Call of the wild

Michele Stumpe was always wild about animals. Then the sanctuary workers and their children captured her heart.

Identity lost and found

Growing up in the South, a multiethnic girl navigates the cultural divide. Anjali Enjeti contemplates her cultural identity.

Compassionate capitalist

Real estate whiz Marjy Stagmeier is changing the lives of her tenants, one apartment complex at a time.

Uno the therapy dog

At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a chaplain's four-legged colleague is on the job, helping children heal.

'Cooking as Fast as I Can'

'Suburban Gospel'

A boy ponders his dad’s place in the world against the backdrop of Atlanta’s child murders. A book excerpt by Mark Beaver.

'A Thousand Naked Strangers'

‘A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back’ — a book excerpt by former EMT Kevin Hazzard.

Superman and the mysterious injury

Clark Jacobs can’t recall the moment his life changed, but his long recovery has been a constant reminder.

Mind the gap

On a mother-son trip to NYC, the torch is passed on the definition of cool.

Aimee's odyssey

infected by a flesh-eating bacteria, free-spirited student Aimee Copeland battled back after mulitple amputations and a moment in the national spotlight

Called for life

Dr. Kent Brantly was a medical missionary with Samaritan's Purse, living with his wife, Amber, and their children in war-torn Liberia. While working at ELWA hospital, where only one Ebola patient out of dozens had survived, he began to run a fever. "Kent, bud. We got your test result. And I'm really sorry to tell you that it is positive for Ebola." I had not expected to hear those words despite...

The road home

Driving my favorite part of Ga. Highway 83, it's easy to lose track of time. With only an occasional house or rusted fence to break up the miles of pine trees, irrigated cornfields and rolling pastures dotted with anthills, driving easily takes a back seat to my thoughts. Deemed a Scenic Byway by the state, Ga. 83 is an 86.5-mile two-lane road that traverses from Monroe south to Forsyth, passing through...

The novice farmer

As a teen Nathan Brett learned the guitar and performed in the church band between his father's prayers. From his home in Madison County, he could reach the rock 'n' roll mecca of Athens by car in 20 minutes. Music consumed his thoughts. When he finished school, Nashville called. Back home, Murray Brett worried. What kind of life was his oldest son choosing? Murray feared that spiritual bankruptcy...

The secret wedding party

A daughter adopted at birth resurfaces in Maxene Raices’ life and helps heal old wounds. But secrecy still looms. Read the winner of our first Personal Journeys Writing Contest.

The new normal

Cyclist Greg Germani on the long road to recovery after hit-and-run crash.

The reinvention of HENSE

How the Atlanta graffiti artist went legit and became a global art star.

'The Lost Gulf'

An excerpt from Rick Bragg’s new collection of essays, ‘My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South.’

The neighbors

Broke and lonely, Vicki Van Der Hoek had nothing to look forward to until she met 6-year-old Leon Shields. 15 years later, the unlikely friends are still very close.

Maximus the Great

Meeting her child’s special needs isn’t enough for Keri Janton. She wants to give her son a life of joy.

From lawless to lawyer

David Lee Windecher was on the road to prison until he turned his life around.

A veteran's story

An excerpt from ‘Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir’ by late Jonesboro resident Gen. John R. Galvin

Missing Vicki

An adventurous teen, her devoted sister and a trip of a lifetime gone wrong.

In the spirit

Tenor Sam Hagan has been the sound of the holiday season for nearly 40 years.

Personal Journeys revisited

A look back at four stories of courage, generosity and perseverance.

Journeys revisited

Four stories about the uplifting power of family and friends, new and old.

The Gathering

An excerpt from ‘Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South’ by James Villanueva.

The ref

72-year-old lacrosse crew chief Louie Diaz reluctantly eyes retirement from the sport he loves.

From Tennessee to home

Road of success and setbacks leads hip-hop artist Speech to his calling.

Lost and Found

For AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz, saving his son meant letting him go.
Special Presentation
‘My Father and Atticus Finch’: An excerpt

‘My Father and Atticus Finch’: An excerpt

My father did not “sell for his worth.” His sister told me that and my mother did not disagree. What did that mean, I wondered as a child. Only as an adult did I trace it to a time before my birth when, as a young white lawyer, he represented a black man charged with raping a white woman in a small town in south Alabama. My interest intensified as time went on because this was my father...
Ossabaw’s matriarch must leave island, lacking funds for own care

Ossabaw’s matriarch must leave island, lacking funds for own care

Sandy West, the 103-year-old doyenne of Ossabaw Island, will leave her beloved barrier island near Savannah next month. Frail, with fading memory, West will be moved to a personal care facility in Savannah. It’s the end of a storied era along Georgia’s coast, one that the indomitable matriarch and fierce lover of nature helped shape. “This is a very, very sad day for Eleanor Torrey...

Sandy West to leave Ossabaw Island

Sandy West, the 103-year-old doyenne of Ossabaw Island, will leave her beloved barrier island near Savannah next month. Frail, with fading memory, Sandy will be moved to a personal care facility in Savannah. It’s the end of a storied era along Georgia’s coast, one that the indomitable matriarch and fierce lover of nature helped shape. “This is a very, very sad day for Eleanor Torrey...
Strong survivor

Strong survivor

"The first time I remember something happening was right after my fourth birthday. I was wearing blue jean overalls, Mary Jane shoes and a pink shirt. He took me in a room and touched me. "It wasn’t anything major until I was 9. I was on the bed. He was like 300 pounds. I screamed because it hurt. He choked me until I passed out. When I woke up he showed me a knife and said he would...
Family found

Family found

On the third day of the New Year, Maureen Miles opened a letter she had waited 50 years to receive. It was from The Salvation Army Missing Persons & Booth Records. She screamed. She blinked. The words blurred as tears welled in her eyes. She finally had the link she needed. Flashback five decades. Maureen was a college student in England in the 1950s when she received a similar letter from The Salvation...
Back to the woods

Back to the woods

It was one of those wilderness moments. In May, as we hiked up to Weverton Cliffs, east of Harpers Ferry, W.V., the drizzle began to taper off, and the sky grew lighter. Trees parted to reveal a rocky promontory with a dramatic drop-off below and a sweeping view beyond. The jade hills of West Virginia seemed lit from within; the Potomac River, swollen with rain, grumbled and surged toward Washington...
A common thread

A common thread

She pretty much cried for 250 miles. It had been almost a year since Cathy Palmer had traded her “idyllic” life on a lake in Missouri for an apartment near the busy intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Buford Highway in Atlanta. Since she’d put on hold a career as the bestselling author of more than 50 Christian novels to become the unpaid founder of a sewing group for refugee...
Lost and found

Lost and found

They closed the airplane door a few minutes ago and here comes an irritated flight attendant for the third time. “Sir, you need to turn off your phone.” Sorry. My concerns are somewhere other than the infinitesimal possibility that a cellphone call from my wife might somehow short-circuit the pilot’s instrumentation between the gate area and the runway. Also, I am pretty certain...
The matriculation of Walter Coggins Jr.

The matriculation of Walter Coggins Jr.

The day began like any other school day for Walter Coggins Jr. It was August 2014, the second week of his senior year at B.E.S.T. Academy, an all-male public school in Atlanta. As he headed out the door, he exchanged goodbyes with his father. All right, son. I love you, Walter Coggins Sr. said and kissed his son’s forehead. Expressions of love and encouragement were the Coggins’ way. This...
Lost brother

Lost brother

Outside the center for unwed mothers, Alan Horne – a black, 6-foot-2, 200-plus pound former offensive lineman on his high school football team — waited in the dark. The weather was typical for late March in Paterson, N.J. — cold with no sight of spring. And the hour was late. Antonette, the product of a traditional Italian family whom everyone called Toni, was in her third trimester...
Long-distance runner

Long-distance runner

I’ve run the Beltline Eastside Trail dozens if not hundreds of times. I know every inch of it and always enjoy flying down the path whether I’m the only person on it or it’s packed with a weekend crowd of thousands. This should be one of the high points of my run today, but it just isn’t happening. My legs are a little tight. My hip isn’t moving as smoothly as I would...
Family outcast

Family outcast

Daniel Ashley Pierce never clicks on the YouTube video. Watch the disturbing clip that went viral and made him a famous gay teenager, and you understand why. Posted online by a friend, it’s the recording of an intervention of sorts by kinfolk on his father’s side who curse and threaten Daniel before they cast him out of his home for being himself. Nearly 8 million people worldwide have...
A terrible beauty

A terrible beauty

Every story must begin someplace, and the story of Ty Cobb began in Banks County on Dec. 18, 1886. Many people assume (or assert) that Cobb grew up in a shotgun shack on the wrong side of the tracks from Dogpatch; that is hardly the case. He was born in a nicely appointed 13-room house on the property of his maternal grandfather, a fairly well-to-do former Confederate Army captain named Caleb Chitwood...
More Personal Journeys Stories