Today’s theme: courage. Pinned, for your storytelling pleasure, we’ve got stories in several shades of bravery, by talented narrative journalists from Kansas City, Milwaukee, Boston, New York, Tampa and Washington, D.C. You can find all of these, and more, on our Recommended Reading board:

“The Course of Their Lives,” by Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. New med students work their way through the legendary gross anatomy class. This piece is designed beautifully, with multimedia features that include 20 seconds of a hauntingly fitting musical intro and camera pans that fade into sketches. The four easily navigable chapters are “The First Cut,” “The Living and the Dead,” “A Heart in Your Hand” and “The Weight of Her Brain.” Readers can click mugshots of six med students, to hear them talk about why they want to become a doctor, or watch touching videos of people who have decided to donate their body to science. Excerpt:

“It was the first class I’d ever taken where the light bulbs kept going off,” he says. “I had been a biology major, but I didn’t have a sense of how it all fit together. This was like looking at a car as a whole system, instead of just getting all of the little pieces. It’s seeing how the pieces all operate in a person. If you understand the big picture, all of the rest starts falling into place.”

It is a fitting place to begin. Students start with the foundations they will use their entire careers — the map and the vocabulary necessary to communicate with anyone in medicine.

But gross anatomy also provides something less scientific.

Students share an experience that will bond them long after they have graduated, entered practice and forgotten most of their time in medical school.

“This is an elucidation of death and dying,” Hoagland says. “It’s a way for students who have never experienced that to confront it.”

That first class, on a Monday in August 2012, Hoagland tells the students what he expects.

Get to class early. Be scholarly and professional at all times.

No flip-flops in the lab. No shorts. No iPods.

Students will work in teams of six. There are 36 teams; 36 bodies.

Don’t talk about the donors in the elevator.

Don’t discuss them at Starbucks.

“Treat them well,” Hoagland says. “Be good stewards of the gift. These are some of the most altruistic people around. They donate knowing what we are going to do to the body.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.09.57 AM“Amid churchgoers, an orphan pleads for a family,” by Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay Times. A 15-year-old boy living in foster care goes to church to ask someone, anyone, to adopt him. Excerpt:

Davion Navar Henry Only loves all of his names. He has memorized the meaning of each one: beloved, brown, ruler of the home, the one and only.

But he has never had a home or felt beloved. His name is the last thing his parents gave him.

He was born while his mom was in jail. He can’t count all of the places he has lived.

In June, Davion sat at a library computer, unfolded his birth certificate and, for the first time, searched for his mother’s name. Up came her mug shot: 6-foot-1, 270 pounds — tall, big and dark, like him. Petty theft, cocaine.

Next he saw the obituary: La-Dwina Ilene “Big Dust” McCloud, 55, of Clearwater, died June 5, 2013. Just a few weeks before.

“20 Minutes at Rucker Park,” by Flinder Boyd, SB Nation. A 24-year-old janitor quits his job and travels cross country to try to make it at Rucker Park, the cathedral of street basketball. Excerpt:

TJ had, over the years, made a shield for himself. Carefully constructed out of every hope or fantasy he’d ever had of being a basketball star, it helped him endure and survive DPH and everything else. As long as he never really tried to play at Rucker and see whether he was good enough to share a court with Kevin Durant,  or “A Butta” and the “Bone Collector,” the shield protected him.

But as he looked up at the scoreboard, maybe he was beginning to realize that once the fantasy starts to unravel, it can never come back. He missed another shot badly, and audible groans came from the stands.

As the minutes continued to pass and the players sprinted up and down the court, a set of clouds rolled by overhead, blanketing the sun. That seemingly innocent shift, however, changed TJ. As if the natural spotlight shining down on him had been turned off.

TJ still had a few skills he could showcase. He stole the ball near half court and sped the other way, he stutter-stepped and readied himself for a dunk – his moment. Then, at the last second, he backed down and simply laid it in. Still, it was a start. It wasn’t a dunk, but he had scored at Rucker Park.

“Together despite all, glimpsing the finish,” by Sarah Schweitzer, Boston Globe. Excerpt:

Yes, Marc had lived. Yes, he’d woken from the coma. But the bomb on Boylston Street that maimed him also shattered their calibrated divisions of labor and love, the daily minuet of a life lived together. He was like so many of the Marathon day victims, transformed in an instant from a face in the crowd to the face of the tragedy. Outside the hospital the talk was of heroes and strength and resilience. Inside, it felt like something else. The pain and uncertainty almost unbearable; patience tested to its absolute limit; love the final reserve. Would he make it? Would they?

“Kiss! Kiss each other right now,” Marc’s sister Stephanie says urgently.

“She’s cranky pants,” Marc says.

“She’s not cranky pants,” Stephanie says. “She’s amazingly strong.”

Jen offers a half-smile, but makes no move except to chew what remains of her ragged thumbnail.

“Nightmare in Maryville,” by Dugan Arnett, Kansas City Star. A family seeking justice in the alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl incurs the backlash of a community. Excerpt:

Two days after discovering her daughter on the front porch, Coleman says, she got a phone call from another mother warning her that online threats were being levied against the Coleman children, including a suggestion that her sons would be beaten up in the school parking lot.

When she checked online, she discovered that many of the comments were aimed at Daisy. On Twitter, the brother of one of the boys at the Barnett home that night wrote that he hoped Daisy “gets whats comin.”

Daisy was suspended from the cheerleading squad for her role in the night’s events. Barnett did not finish his senior year there, according to his lawyer.

During his Senior Night with the wrestling team, Charlie was booed by some students. Among the comments that made it back to him in the weeks following the arrests: that his mother and sister were “crazy bitches,” that Barnett was blameless, and that Daisy had been “asking for it.”

“There were several days,” Charlie says, “I just wanted to go knock a kid’s teeth out.”

At a dance competition, Melinda Coleman says, a girl arrived wearing a homemade shirt: Matt 1, Daisy 0.

“Inside the Inferno,” by J. Freedom DuLac, the Washington Post. A vacant house burns big and fast, putting firefighters in a life-or-death situation. Streamlined design with multimedia elements that include 911 dispatch audio, news footage and a 3D narrative graphic. Excerpt:

At his parents home in Buies Creek, he pulls out the helmet he wore on 57th Avenue. The bright red “9″ on front of the helmet had been blackened. The white Bladensburg patch had, too. “I nearly died in this thing,” he said, examining the charred crown.

Sorrell sniffed; it still reeked of fire. He flipped the helmet over.

“I’m not a big religious person,” he said. “But on every helmet, I’ve written this.”

It was the Bible verse Psalm 23:4. “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” he said, then stopped.

Outside the vacant house that night, Sorrell thought O’Toole had died, until he saw his friend moving. Then, he realized he had a problem himself: He couldn’t breathe. “It was like trying to breathe through a coffee strainer.”

There was water gushing down the street, and Sorrell tried – without success – to drink it off the pavement.

For more great storytelling, find our past installments of Pinned here.

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