The Crash of 2008

As we look back at some of the most frightening days in Charlotte’s history, we see that the crash can’t be measured in numbers. Rather, its legacy is the anxiety it created and how we resolved to not let hard times beat us


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Fall 2008. The people on the higher floors know sooner. For the rest of Charlotte, things start to feel different in September. Gas prices shoot up past $4, and the stations start running out. Cars stalk tanker trucks and rush to pumps on rumors of gas at any price. Lines form 30 cars deep down Park Road and Monroe Road and N.C. Highway 51—anywhere with running pumps. Shouting matches erupt at a station on 521 in Ballantyne. Police respond to a dozen calls about fistfights. 

Others, who months before wouldn’t have been caught dead riding public transportation, pack standing-room only buses and the recently opened light rail.

Rounding the corner from the 3rd Street station, the stock ticker in the distance at One Wachovia Center looks broken. It’s showing an unending stream of red. Getting closer, the down arrows come into focus.

Not long before this, 28 cranes hung over uptown, and the sidewalks were all jackhammers and orange cones. Now, construction projects remain half-finished or just begun. Office towers and luxury condos. Art galleries and museums. The EpiCentre complex opens with clubs and a movie theater with pulsing electro music and bathroom attendants and $20 cocktails. What are they thinking?

Meanwhile, grim-faced security guards escort people holding cardboard boxes to revolving doors, their faces even grimmer. Layoffs are a part of life in banking—but not 3,772 financial jobs gone in one year in the same city.

Autumn in uptown is usually a time for festivals and outdoor lunches on the Square. Heat and humidity loosen their grip on the city. The kids are back in school. So even though the third-quarter numbers are coming due, this is the time of year when people sometimes take a longer lunch break than usual. 

Not this year. Not 2008.

This fall is a time for frantic emails and texts to old friends and co-workers and friends of friends. 

You safe?

You make it?

Any openings for me?

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