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'Prairie Diaries'

Florence Whitebread and her husband, Don.
Photos: Neva Grant, NPR News /
Florence Whitebread and her husband, Don.
Elton Lombard
Elton Lombard
Oretha Ruetti
Oretha Ruetti

On Oct. 11, 2001, thousands of people in Kansas went about their day. Farmers cut corn, factory workers bottled soap, Mexican and Central American immigrants went to work in slaughterhouses, schoolchildren played football and soccer, volunteers renovated a Laotian Baptist church, grandmothers made quilts and surfed the Internet.

And then they all sat down and wrote about it.

More than 5,000 Kansans took part in a project called "A Day in My Community." They kept a diary for a single day, to leave a historical record of their lives at the beginning of the millennium. The diaries are now being archived by the Kansas State Historical Society. For six weeks this fall Morning Edition will broadcast some of these Prairie Diaries along with interviews with the diarists and the sounds of their communities.

The diarists came from small towns, sprawling suburbs, and isolated farms in counties with fewer than 1,500 residents. In a six-part weekly series, Morning Edition will present stories on some of the things they wrote about on that day in October:

• In Olsburg, population 192, a third of the town gathered for the homemade lunch they share every week, and wondered how many of their children would remain to carry on the tradition.

• Oretha Ruetti, an 83-year-old woman in Frankfort, worked on the local newspaper column she has written for three decades.

• Dakota Button, a 13-year-old boy on a ranch near the Colorado border, remembered the calf he raised before it drowned in a flood.

• Elton Lombard, an African American, discussed his family's decision to move to a predominantly white suburb of Kansas City.

• Ross Marshall, an amateur historian in Merriam, explored old pioneer trails.

• Immigrants talked about their new lives in the southwest Kansas "Golden Triangle" of cattle feedlots.

• Florence Whitebread, a county supervisor in the Flint Hills, grappled with the bureaucratic aftermath of Sept. 11.

• Matt Ybarra, a high school athlete who resides on the Oklahoma border, tried to live up to his family's heritage of sports success.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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