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Corridor Remembers Maya Angelou

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Author, poet, activist, actress, inspiration: Maya Angelou embodied these and countless other roles in her lifetime.

She died on Wednesday at the age of 86.

Finding her influence in the City of Literature is just as easy as opening one of Angelou's books, or, making a stop at Prairie Lights.

It was 1999 when Angelou was the keynote speaker at a librarian conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Barb Stein was there.

"We were spellbound by her. All of us. And to this day, we still discuss her," Stein said.

Then, Stein was a librarian. Today, she's a bookseller at Prairie Lights.

"She was really the one that everybody read, because she was so magnificent," Stein said. "How someone could land on their feet and be so accomplished, dignified, humorous, have such a worldview. I think that's a very special trick. And then, to write and teach and act, all those things are so awesome."

Just two floors up, in the Prairie Lights Cafe, those things resonate with Kyra Seay.

"Someone who knew that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, right?" Seay said.

Seay saw Angelou speak a few years ago in Des Moines.

"Every two seconds, she would say something where I would be like, 'Wow. That speaks to me and every experience I've had in my life,'" she said.

For Seay, whose grandfather lived through the Civil Rights era, and who herself is starting a business, Angelou's influence lives on.

"I want to hear what other people have experienced through her. What they've learned. Because I think there's beauty in that," Seay said.

Maybe Angelou might appreciate just how close that beauty can be.

"She just seemed to really have that core knowledge of human experience that related to everybody. So, I think it's a sad day," Stein said.

Lan Samantha Chang, the director of the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, also released this statement on Wednesday:

"Today marks the passing of a woman with one of the most extraordinary voices of America literature: a voice borne out of silence and shaped by history and by personal courage, a singular, powerful voice that changed our understanding of what the human story is and how it can be told."
 
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