Category Archives: Memorials

Remembering The Day The World Changed – Ten Year Later


By Janet Graham, Guest Blogger
(This article appeared in the 9/11/2011 Detroit Free Press)

When I woke to the sound of sirens in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, I had no idea that it would be the day the world would change. I never imagined 10 years later that my life, and my country, would feel so different.

It’s typical to hear sirens, lots of sirens, when you’re staying in New York City. But as I looked out the window of my friend’s 36th Street apartment, I saw the giant horizontal plume of smoke emanating from the World Trade Center towers. It looked like a very bad fire. I flipped on the TV to learn a plane had hit one of the towers. I started to feel scared, without even knowing what was yet to happen.

I spent the rest of the day as many did, watching the coverage of the horrific attacks, but I alternated it with going outside on my friend’s terrace and seeing it unfold live. It seemed exactly like a disaster movie as the towers collapsed, one by one, into a cloud of dust shaped like a mushroom cloud.

When I went outside later, I saw survivors walking up from what would soon be called Ground Zero. Many still had bits of the dust in their hair, their faces smeared with dirt and smoke and shell-shocked looks on their faces. It was hard to process the events. I found myself calling my loved ones to hear their voices and let them know I was OK.

The days that followed in New York felt like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Amid all the confusion and rescue efforts at Ground Zero, the most noticeable thing was the eerie silence. In a city that usually lives at ear-crushing decibels with sirens, horns, loud noises from trucks unloading and more, there was little traffic and a frightening stillness.

People shuffled wordlessly up sidewalks and mostly just nodded. Occasionally, a friend would greet another with a heartfelt hug, saying, “I’m so glad you’re OK.”

Most of the entrances into the city were closed, and hardly anyone was going to work. There were handmade cardboard signs taped to mailboxes saying “No pickups for at least TWO more days.”

The city had an apocalyptic feel, with many residents wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from the dust and other poisons that still hung in the air. I would look up and see fighter jets overhead, watching in case the terrorists struck again. I felt mostly numb but also worried about the possibility of another attack.

Remembering those days now, it’s really not shocking that the U.S. reacted to the attacks by invading Afghanistan. Everyone wanted something done, some form of retaliation.

More surprising, in retrospect, is that we followed this with the passage of the Patriot Act and another invasion, this time into Iraq, a country with no apparent connection to the attacks.

Ten years later, life is very different, for our country, and for me. At that time, I was working as a freelance sports writer for Reuters, in New York to cover the U.S. Open tennis tournament and staying a few days afterward to visit with friends. I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to news stories then. Now, I’ve moved from Ohio to Detroit, and I deal with the big news stories, from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the killing of Osama bin Laden, as both a news copy editor and a frequent nation and world editor.

America seems permanently changed as well, and not for the better. Although there hasn’t been another major attack within our borders, it has been a decade of decline with two long wars and the financial crisis. America is dealing with many more unemployed people, and many more without health care or those who struggle to pay for it. There is an ever-broadening gap between the haves and the have-nots. The American Dream is taking a beating.

When I wrote about my experiences 10 years ago, I said the attacks may have robbed us of our sense of security but they didn’t even dent our humanity.

Today, I’m not so sure.

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RIP Chuck Graham – “A Wizard, A True Star”

Charles (Chuck) William Graham was a man with a multitude of talents. He was the kind of man who could start a computer company from scratch and make it into a successful international corporation. He could plan a family holiday trip to Hawaii and make sure no one missed out on a single adventure, whether it was hiking through a volcano, snorkeling in the ocean or going on a kayak excursion. He could juggle a houseful of guests and make an omelet they would never forget. He could pack up a carful of camping gear and take his wife Julie and daughters Kelli and Leah to explore some of North Carolina’s most beautiful outdoor vistas.

Chuck could do all these things because of a unique combination of brilliance, ingenuity and generosity of spirit. Together with his ability to connect so instantly and effectively with others, it brought him success and admiration in the business world and in his personal life.

Chuck moved to North Carolina in 1990 and was a co-founder of the Salem Automation computer company, based in Winston-Salem. On Monday (Nov. 8, 2010), at the young age of 49, Chuck succumbed to cancer after a hard-fought five-year battle with the disease. His death cut short a life filled with a multitude of accomplishments and plans for future endeavors.

Charles William Graham was born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in Centerville, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. Early on, he exhibited an innate talent for science and computers. He invented a variety of contraptions, including a hurricane machine for the science fair and contraptions to keep his nosy sisters Kim and Janet out of his room.

Throughout his life, Chuck enjoyed being outdoors. He was an avid fisherman who delighted in hiking and camping. In the winter, he was always planning his next ski trip – a sport he enjoyed sharing with his daughters. Summers were filled with vacations to the beach, where Chuck enjoyed golfing, body surfing and time with family and friends. made complete by enjoying vacations.

At Archbishop Alter High School, he excelled in the classroom and on the wrestling team. He went on to college at Ohio State University, where he earned two degrees, one in Business Administration and the other in Computer Engineering. While at OSU, he joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and was an active member. He also met his future wife of 25 years, Julie Thompson, in a marketing class at Ohio State. She was a fellow Business student with many similar interests. Soon they were dating and Chuck and Julie were married in 1985.

Chuck’s time as an OSU student indoctrinated him as a die-hard Buckeyes fan who celebrated their victories, especially the national championship season in 2002. Each season, he and his daughters made the trip to Ohio to attend one game at Ohio Stadium.

Upon graduation, Chuck was hired by Pittsburgh Plate Glass. He later moved on to a small process control company, CRISP Automation, held by Square D Corporation. Transitioning into sales, Chuck moved his family to Charlotte, where he was the Southeast sales representative. After the company was bought by a French corporation, he took a buyout and invested in a small computer company with four other partners. That small company, Salem Automation, grew into an international success story with business interests nationwide and in Puerto Rico and other parts of the world.

While Chuck was succeeding in business, he and his wife, Julie, were tending to their growing family. Their first child, a daughter Kelli, was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1989. Soon after, the family moved to Charlotte, and in 1992, a second daughter, Leah, was born. Chuck was very active in his daughters’ lives. He encouraged them to be successful in school and made every effort to attend all their extracurricular activities such as music, dance and chorus recitals, Girl Scouts, as well as countless hours shuttling them to and from swim practice and a multitude of swim meets. He was very proud of Kelli and Leah and loved them dearly.

Shortly after moving to Charlotte, he joined St. Gabriel’s parish, where he and his family enjoyed being members.
In his spare time, Chuck enjoyed traveling and planning trips with his family. Whether it was camping with family and friends or planning an elaborate trip to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, exploring a number of the national parks, as well as visits to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston to learn more of the country’s history. Chuck had many other trips he had planned for his family in the future.

Chuck had a particular love of the ocean and the beach, enjoying the Outer Banks, Kiawah Island, Charleston, Wild Dunes, and especially his beloved Hawaii, where he honeymooned and then returned several times with his family.

He was first diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in 2005. He immediately began treatment, which continued intermittently over the next five years. While battling his disease, he continued to run his company and had even begun work to launch several other businesses. He also maintained a busy home life and continued to pursue his many passions of golf, travel and spending time with family and friends.

Despite debilitating side effects from his treatment, Chuck always sustained his sense of humor and positive outlook. In his 49 years, he accomplished much and touched many. His spirit and legacy will never be forgotten.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Julie Thompson Graham, daughters Kelli and Leah, parents Charles and Evelyn Graham, sisters Kim Graham and Janet Graham.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Carolinas HealthCare Foundation at http://www.givechf.org. Specifically, please indicate the contribution is for The Rare and Complex Cancer Funds or Blumenthal Cancer Center Endowment in memory of Chuck Graham.

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