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Grandmother's Rosary Is An Anchor To Family Around The World

NOEL KING, HOST:

If you had to leave your home at a minute's notice, what would you take with you? Last month we brought you the story of a Jewish boy who escaped Nazi Germany with not much more than the clothes on his back, a little bag and a toy monkey. That doll led to the discovery years later of family he never knew he had. So we asked if others had any stories about one object that they could never leave behind, something that they took with them when fleeing conflict. We got a lot of responses, and we wanted to share some of the stories with you. This morning we have one that comes from inside NPR. Isabel Lara works in NPR's media relations department. She fled her home in Venezuela in 2001 as the country's economy deteriorated to attend grad school in New York City.

ISABEL LARA, BYLINE: When I left Venezuela, I didn't realize that I wasn't going to go back there. I thought that I was just going off to graduate school and I'd be back in a few years. But the situation of the country just kept getting worse and worse, and it's reached a point now where more than two million Venezuelans have left the country. I have this rosary that belonged to my grandmother that I took with me when I went off to graduate school in New York. My grandmother died in 1988. It was her kind of basic rosary that she kept with her that I took with me in 2001.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LARA: I moved into my dorm, which was very near the World Trade Center. And a few days after I arrived there, 9/11 happened and the World Trade Center collapsed across the street, more or less.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LARA: You know, I woke up to this loud noise and then, like, I looked out the window, and all these papers were flying from the towers and they looked like confetti in the very bright blue sky that morning. There was a heed to give blood. So I just grabbed my cellphone and my charger, and I took off. And then that night, I wasn't able to go back to my apartment in a week. And I remember at that moment, you know, I had to buy, like, you know, clothes and stuff for, like, that week. But I kept thinking, I left the rosary behind. And I was so concerned that I would lose it, I think that nothing else in that apartment mattered to me except the rosary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LARA: So then when I was able to come back, I just walked into my apartment and there was all this ash. It was so dirty. And right away, I went to see if the rosary was still there in my travel wallet, and it was.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LARA: And I just felt relief that it had survived 9/11. And it kind of, like, you know, stayed with me for the rest of my life. The rosary reminds me of my grandmother and, in a way, of my childhood and of the country that I left behind and that simply doesn't exist anymore. And now, you know, when I look at news stories about children dying of hunger and not having basic medicine, it's just definitely not the country that I grew up in. I don't pray much, but when I do (laughter), I get out that rosary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: That was Isabel Lara with the story of a most precious object in her life. We've compiled a number of the stories we've gotten on our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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