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WYSO, the Dayton Metro Library and local social service agency, Rebuilding Together Dayton, have come together for a very special project. We’ve gathered the memories and wise words of Dayton’s elders for Senior Voices, a new series that is airing throughout 2018.Along with Dayton Metro Library staff, we trained nearly three dozen area residents to use digital recording equipment to interview local elders. Interviews took place at branch libraries, at selected Lobby Stop locations (Lobby Stop is a sort of book mobile for seniors), community centers, and in the homes of seniors who participated in the Rebuilding Together Dayton Fixit Kit program.We held three trainings at the DML Northwest branch this summer, and shortly after the new main branch opened in August, the volunteers began gathering stories. The full interviews will be accessible for generations to come at the Dayton Metro Library. At WYSO, Community Voices producers have been editing the interviews for broadcast. We present them to you in honor of the life experiences and wisdom of Dayton elders.This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.Jocelyn Robinson coordinated this series for WYSO. Janine Kinnison is the Project Liaison for Dayton Metro Library.Editors include: Dave Barber, William Brown, Tess Cortes, Patti Gehred, Javis Heberling, Kateri Kosta, Zebedee Reichert, Jason Reynolds, David Seitz, Alan Staiger, Chris Welter. Interviewers include: Dana Kragick, Tess Cortes, Anna Omulo, Doug Bowers, Hadley Drodge, M. Alice Callier, Barbra Gerla, Jason Coatney Schuler, Linda Pitzer, Carol Jackson, Audrey Ingram, Susan Brenner, Nancy Messer, Christian Davell, Ken Standifer, Liz Anderson, Cynthia Wallace-King, Karen Maner, David Murphy Sr., Cynthia Rush, Alan Stagier, Debra Root, Pamela Waltrip, Jennifer Hicks, Brandon Ulman, Karah Power    

Senior Voices: Bessie Simien

Bessie Simien
Senior Voices

When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, over 800,000 people evacuated from the city, and Bessie Simien was one of them. This week on Senior Voices, we hear about Bessie’s journey from New Orleans to Dayton. She shared her story last fall with Dayton Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Cynthia Wallace-King.


Bessie Simien (BS): I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 4th, 1928. In them days things were really hard and tough and things; all I can say is I had a good life. It was not easy as what the people, the children have now, but was a lot of love. We didn’t have a lot of money, a lot of food and everything, but we made it. I moved to Dayton after the hurricane in New Orleans, Hurricane ‘Trina. I came from New Orleans to Georgia and I really didn’t like Georgia, so my son was living here in Dayton, so I was crying every day that I was in Georgia, so he said, “Mama you don’t have stay there, you can come here.” And by him living and working here, at Wright-Patt, that’s how I came here from New Orleans, and I’ve been here ever since.

New Orleans is a great city, a big city and everybody come there, you know they have things going on everywhere, but was raised there and I really loved it until the storm came. Probably I would’ve still been there.

Cynthia Wallace-King (CW): Did it destroy everything that you had?

BS: Yes, I lost everything, when I went back home, from the storm and the water. There was four feet of water in my house so I couldn’t save anything. But I was blessed to have all my family got out. When they told us we had to leave, we left there, we was in Georgia when the storm hit New Orleans so we wasn’t there to see, you know, so we was blessed by that we didn’t lose any family member, but we lost everything.

CW: So then you moved to the Dayton area?

BS: We moved to Dayton and I’ve been here ever since. And I made it this far. (Laughs) I’ve made it this far, so I can just say blessed. I can’t say anything bad about it.

CW: Would you say that the storms in New Orleans were the worst time in your life?

BS: Yes, every time the storms would come up, well the worst one I seen was Hurricane ‘Trina, but I went through a lot of ‘em that, you know, we had to all get together and wonder which way we was gonna go, until Hurricane ‘Trina came and then we really had to get out. That was the worst one, but I went through a lot of storms.

This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Zeb Reichert. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.