The cataclysmic hemorrhaging of the US economy broke the spirit and bank accounts of Americans across the country. Job loss, bankruptcy, and home foreclosures mark only the measurable statistics representing crushed aspirations, helplessness, grief, desolation and broken-hearts of lives swallowed whole by a voracious monster experts like to call a recession.

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places," Ernest Hemingway wrote in Farewell to Arms.  This morning I begin a quest to discover that well of strength I believe still resides in the American people and communities most devastated by the economic downturn.

For the next four months I will travel the back roads and State highways through the 48 contiguous United States, uncovering stories of economic survival and endurance. In diners, bars, bingo halls and coffee shops, I seek those Americans who have lost everything--except hope.