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Episode 1: Listening

In episode one, host Will McInerney talks with Farris Barakat about the night his brother Deah was killed along with Deah's wife Yusor Abu-Salha and sister-in-law Razan Abu-Salha. All three Muslim-Americans were shot execution style in their home. 

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Stories with a Heartbeat is a new WUNC podcast about the human condition in conflict.  Host Will McInerney is an award-winning poet who travels the globe exploring conflict and what it says about us as people. This podcast weaves together interviews, sound, music and poetic reflection into 15 minutes that will pull listeners in and encourage them to explore friction.


An image of Will McInerney
Credit Jackson Hall / WUNC
Host Will McInerney

"Along the journey, I discovered that conflict is a prism; a window into the human condition. In conflict we see the full spectrum, from the unthinkably worst to the absolute best, from resilience to despair, and from life to death," McInerney says.

"So what happens when we break down the simplified and dehumanized narratives we so often hear? What happens when we shine a light into the prism of conflict? As a poet, I’m a vessel carrying these stories."

In the first episode, McInerney explores the murders of three young American-Muslisms in Chapel Hill.

In the first episode, McInerney explores the murders of three young American-Muslisms in Chapel Hill. On February 10th, 2015, Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were shot by their neighbor Craig Hicks. McInerney spoke with Deah's brother Farris Barakat about his experience the night of the shooting.

"I called my mom. I called her and I’m like, 'Mama, are you ok? Like what can I do?' And she doesn’t answer; she says, 'Have you heard from Deah?"

Farris goes on to describe the next few hours in detail as he races from work to his brother’s home only to find Deah, Yusor, and Razan have been killed. As the episode wraps up, Farris opens up about the beginning of his long process of mourning and healing.

Below is the poem McInerney delivers in the program:

Poets are magicians. Wands masquerading as pens, we take words and create meaning, take feeling and give birth to empathy. Rhyme is just a parlor trick. But metaphor, metaphor is a levitation of ideas, a mind bending reality organized into stanza and verse. A poet can take a story and turn into a vision. Hold a vision in their palms, reads the lines, and offer it as a blessing. Poets are magicians. But there are no words that can resurrect justice here. No magic trick that can right this wrong, that can heal these wounds. When I listen to Farris, I realize poets try so hard to find meaning in pain, to find insight in darkness. We hold magnifying glasses to the heart and mirrors to the world. But sometimes metaphors must bow before the weight of reality. Sometimes we too are speechless. Our pens lie silent. After death, we mourn, we pray, we question. We listen. Sometimes, all we can do is listen.

An image of a memorial for the three Muslim-Americans
Credit Will McInerney
The Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha, Razan Abu Salha Dental Clinic.

  Since the shooting, the victims' families have sought peace. Support has poured in across the country, and Farris continues to carry out Deah's charitable works both in North Carolina and abroad. A few weeks after the shooting, McInerney traveled to the Turkish-Syrian border to get a closer look at a dental clinic named in Deah’s honor.

Inside the clinic, McInerney found a picture of three smiling faces taped to the wall. Underneath the faces was a black paper heart with white Arabic script that says, "We will not forget you."

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Music on Stories with a Heartbeat is created by Stephen Levitin aka Apple Juice Kid


Will McInerney is an award-winning spoken word poet, storyteller, educator, and journalist specializing in the intersection of conflict resolution and creative expression. Will hosts and produces Stories with a Heartbeat, a new podcast that explores the complexity of the human condition in conflict through poetry, stories, and conversation. In addition, Will helps with education reporting and produces the My Teacher Project.
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