It was September 12, 2001 and I, like everyone around the world, was in a state of confusion, concern and awe at the events of the prior day. I was staying at the Hilton University in Charlotte, unbeknownst to me at the time just across the man-made lake from WFAE, during a business trip with Wachovia which was merging with First Union. I had been asked to take a new job with the bank in Charlotte, but I wasn’t yet convinced and it certainly wasn’t the moment to make that decision. I wanted to go home to Atlanta to my partner, dogs and cat, to the place I knew and the people I loved – home. But I’d flown to Charlotte, and planes weren’t flying. So I called Hertz to ask if I could drive the car I’d rented back to Atlanta. Like many businesses during that trying time, Hertz was very accommodating to peoples’ situations, and they said I could drop the car off at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. So I packed my bag and hit the road home.
When travelling, I always search the low-end of the FM radio dial for NPR stations, and that day I found WFAE 90.7 FM, and began listening. It was just after 10 in the morning and I heard what I thought was the odd voice of an old woman chatting with a military man. My mind immediately drew a picture of a Charlotte woman who’d no doubt been on the air for dozens of years, a local fixture probably, although she had no Southern accent, and I thought, “Oh jeez, I don’t know about this…” As I reached for the radio button to search for another station, suddenly the woman asked a most insightful question about how we as a nation, should respond to the horrific situation of the day prior. And I was struck by the equally insightful response given by the military guest. He said we should not overreact and cause more damage than had already been done. And with that, I pulled my hand away from the radio and listened to the dialogue between these two very insightful people who were as concerned and confused as I was, yet calm in their demeanor and rational in their thoughts. I continued to listen until the station’s signal faded, somewhere near Greenville, South Carolina. And it was during that hour that I first fell in love with Diane Rehm.
When I arrived at the Atlanta airport, returned my vehicle and was waiting at the MARTA train station, I was struck by a sound unfamiliar to me in that setting. I looked up and saw the airport’s flags flapping in the breeze. Having been a frequent flyer I was accustomed to the airport’s shrill sound of jet engines and taxi horns, but not silence. It was like something out of Stephen King novel – eerie, disturbing. When I arrived home, I hugged my partner and squeezed my dogs and cat, and immediately went to our PC to research Diane Rehm on the web. I discovered that she was not a Charlotte fixture afterall, but rather a Washington talk show host of great repute and stunning beauty who had a voice problem – spasmodic dysphonia. It was at that moment that I decided I would live in Charlotte, North Carolina, because any town that was wise enough to support a local radio station that would carry such fine programming as NPR and the Diane Rehm Show, would certainly be a town I could choose to call home. Within a few short months, I had bought a home in Charlotte, begun a new job with Wachovia, and became an avid listener to and supporter of WFAE.
Ten years ago the world was profoundly shocked and saddened by the tragic events of 911. But as so often happens, through strife come great things. Charlotte has grown and blossomed, as has WFAE. I’ve now lived in this great city for 10 years, and I congratulate and thank the citizens of Charlotte, and the members and staff of WFAE on its 30th anniversary, for making Charlotte a place I, we, can all be proud to call home.