The Most Historic Story in Charlotte History
A year after the DNC, we try to remember the moments we predicted we’d never forget
A year ago at this time, I drank a beer in a bar at closing time, waiting for a motorcade to drive down Tyvola Road so the police barricade would come down and I could go home. That was, and still is, my most cherished memory of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Yeah, Bill Clinton was good. I don’t remember what he said, really. I remember the protesters didn’t really mess with the police all that much. I remember not wanting to go anywhere near uptown.
This, you see, is what you get when you predict history. We always do it: You are witnessing history in the making. This is a historic night. You’ll always remember where you were when whatever it is you’re watching transpired. We say these things and define history when it’s not even history yet.
The convention was supposed to be different. Some people said it would be the biggest event in Charlotte’s 244-year existence. It’s like announcing that the next burger you get from Five Guys will be historic. You really have no idea until long after you finish it.
I went to cover the opening of the DNC’s office at the arena. It was just an office, but at the time it was historic because someone had made the argument that the DNC was historic and, by extension, so were the cubicles it was setting up in the Bobcats Team Store. I tried to sound interested. How big will the office be? Who will answer the phones? How many people will work here? I don’t really remember the answers because if I’ve learned one thing about myself, it’s that I really don’t much care about office dimensions.
We tried to premeasure history with metrics. Some guy, probably from UNC Charlotte, came out and put a dollar amount on the DNC and called it the economic impact, a magical number that had its roots in voodoo. As a young reporter, I once did a story on the economic impact that a bowl game would have on local bars. My boss’s reaction: Football fans watching in bars? No kidding. You don’t say.
Charlotte’s history is all a matter of perspective. If you just got here, maybe the DNC is the most historic thing. If you’ve been around for 30 years, maybe it’s the Charlotte Hornets or the Carolina Panthers. If you’ve been here for 45 years, maybe it’s the busing that integrated Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
It’s probably none of those things, though. Most of us judge history on the things that are relatively small in the scope of an entire city. Your baby’s birth or your marriage or divorce or your new job or your accident or your crime or whatever is really not anyone else’s business, yet those are probably the biggest things to happen to you. We’re a city full of individual histories. Very rarely do they ever line up.
They were supposed to with the DNC. We were on national TV here and there for a few days. We got some nicer road signs out of it. The police got more surveillance cameras to point at street corners. The president got a new secretary of transportation. Duke Energy got a bill for $10 million.
I got a so-so drinking story to tell. If you want to call that history, it’s fine by me.