An accident, a video message from a Broadway star, and now — hope
Plus: N.C. legislators weigh in on alcohol reform; hot September rezonings🔥; F3 marks 10-year anniversary; Eagles soar to victory over Panthers despite early Carolina lead
Good morning! Today is Monday, October 11, 2021. You’re reading The Charlotte Ledger, an e-newsletter with local business-y news and insights for Charlotte, N.C. You might enjoy listening to our audio version on Spotify 🎧.
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Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by Carroll Financial. Carroll Financial recently joined forces with Wealth Enhancement Group to offer even more financial planning and investment services to the Carolinas.
Charlotte native missed seeing ‘Hamilton’ but got well wishes while in the ICU from the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Emily Holler (left) and her mom Meredith Jeffries posed for this photo in Times Square just after seeing “Hamilton” on Broadway for the first time in 2016. (Courtesy of Emily Holler)
by Cristina Bolling
The last thing Emily Holler remembers from Labor Day weekend is the moment just before she slammed into a tree.
The Charlotte native who had recently moved to New York City was in Washington, D.C., for the long weekend when she and a friend hopped onto an electric moped to head back to her friend’s house for the night.
Holler doesn’t know how she lost control — both she and her friend were sober, she says — but it happened fast. The moped hit a tree on Florida Avenue, leaving her with devastating injuries. Her friend was riding behind her and was relatively unhurt.
Holler’s jaw shattered in multiple places, sending fragments into her brain. She also broke her acetabular, which is a bone in the hip socket that’s extremely rare to break. The next two weeks would be a nightmare of surgeries and scary moments where it was unclear what Holler’s future would hold.
The accident set into motion a chain of events that would bring Holler both unbelievable pain and moments of surprising uplift, in the form of a poignant video from one of Holler’s celebrity heroes.
A dream NYC life and a big purchase: Holler, 22, had been living the post-college life she’d always dreamed of. She had graduated in May from UNC Chapel Hill and was two months into a job she loved as a copywriter in New York City. She had an apartment in Kips Bay on the east side of Manhattan with two roommates who were her friends from UNC Chapel Hill.
And special plans were on the horizon: She had tickets for the Sept. 15 production of “Hamilton” on Broadway, which would be the show’s second night back after the long Covid closure.
Holler had spent $600 on tickets for herself and a roommate — her first “big-girl purchase” as she calls it — and the splurge would be worth it.
She was a Broadway buff who had already seen “Hamilton” in Charlotte, London and New York, and she knew that the crowd at one of the first shows back would be electric.
With the accident, those plans obviously faded into the background. But they didn’t escape from her mind.
Tears over tickets: In the hospital, Holler was fighting for her life.
In the hours after the accident, her parents raced to MedStar Washington Hospital Center — her mom Meredith Jeffries, who lives in Charlotte, and her dad, Jeff Holler who lives in Lake Keowee, S.C.
Holler underwent a 12-hour surgery during which doctors removed bone fragments from her brain and pieced her jaw back together. Injuries like Holler’s usually result in brain damage, paralysis or death, doctors told her and her parents.
For days, she lay in the ICU on copious amounts of fentanyl, unable to talk because she was intubated. Doctors worried that removing the tube would be harmful because of intense swelling in her throat.
She had to write to communicate with her parents and medical staff, and although she now knows it doesn’t make rational sense given the condition her body was in, she was grieving something very specific: missing “Hamilton.”
Her mom snapped a photo of a message Holler wrote her nurse, and posted it on Facebook:
A note Emily Holler wrote to her nurse while in the hospital on Sept. 11. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Jeffries)
Then, social media did what social media does — a friend of Jeffries shared the post with another friend, who passed it along to Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the lyricist who co-wrote the music for the “Frozen” movies, among others. (Anderson-Lopez has roots in Charlotte and Waxhaw.)
What happened next is the stuff of Broadway dreams: Anderson-Lopez reached out to “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda with Holler’s story.
‘I’m so glad you’re OK’: Hours after hip surgery on Sept. 13, Holler was lying in the ICU when Jeffries jumped up from her chair, and showed Holler her phone. The two watched as Miranda addressed Holler in a poignant message.
He starts off the video showing his hands playing a keyboard, then shows the view out of his window, all the while singing the memorable verse from the “Hamilton” song, “That Would Be Enough”:
Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now. Look around…
Then he turns the camera around, and shows himself, in an off-the-cuff, heartfelt greeting.
Emily, I’m so glad you’re OK. I know you have a long road ahead of you in recovery. But we’re happy you’re alive. And we’re happy you’re safe. The show will keep! Hamilton will be there when you’re ready to see it. Don’t worry about that. When the time comes, you’ll come see the show. But your health is paramount. You know the quote from the show: “The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.” It’s more than enough. So I’m sending you love. I’m sending you well wishes on this journey ahead. I’ll see you on the other side of the show.
Holler’s heart rate spiked so high that her hospital monitors started beeping. Nurses came scurrying in. She remembers that both she and her mom cried.
Still foggy from fentanyl, Holler made a TikTok about Miranda’s personalized message, although she now says she has no memory of making it.
She laughs at how her head moves in strange ways and how she sticks her hand up in the frame. Even though she wasn’t in her right mind when she made it, the TikTok went viral.
Her first memory of the TikTok was sitting with her dad in the hospital and picking up her phone to see that not only had she posted about the experience but that 50,000 people had watched it. (That number was up to more than 704,000 as of Sunday.) Thousands posted comments with warm wishes for her recovery.
A return to Charlotte: Holler was released from the Washington, D.C., hospital on Sept. 21, and she’s now staying in Charlotte with her mom, stepfather and little brother as she continues to recover.
She still can’t eat solid foods. She’s missing two teeth and she wears rubber bands in her mouth to keep her jaw from opening more than a finger’s width. She requires crutches or a wheelchair to get around because she still can’t bear weight on her right hip.
Holler started back at her job last week, working remotely. She’s hoping to return to New York in early November, once doctors clear her to walk.
Life these days, she says, consists of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions and trying to maintain a positive attitude and a grateful heart.
One of the brightest moments since the accident was Oct. 3, when Jeffries took Holler to see “Wicked” at Ovens Auditorium — their favorite show to see together. Jeffries had arranged for the venue to move their tickets so Holler could sit in a wheelchair.
As soon as the lights went down and the orchestra sounded its first downbeat, Holler started crying.
Lucky to be alive: Holler knows she’s incredibly lucky, but some days are still hard. She has moments of deep regret about getting on the moped, and how that one decision led to such pain for both her and her family.
But then she realizes how miraculous it is that she will soon be able to return to her old life. The good days are starting to outnumber the bad ones.
“Now, I’ve gotten to a point where I know how lucky I am, and it makes me grateful,” she says. “Even though I’m in pain and my life is very different than it was a month ago, I’m just lucky that I’m alive.”
She doesn’t know when she’ll be able to stroll into the Richard Rogers Theatre in New York and take her seat in the audience of “Hamilton.” But she knows it’ll happen one day.
Her voice breaks when she talks about what she’d say to Lin Manuel Miranda, if she ever gets the chance.
“He’s like a hero to me,” she says. “I would tell him that hearing him say my name, and knowing what happened to me, is something I never would have believed would happen.”
Cristina Bolling is managing editor of The Ledger: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s supporting sponsors are T.R. Lawing Realty …
We asked local state legislators: Do you support ABC reform?
You might have read in these e-pages lately that there’s a liquor shortage in North Carolina, which the N.C. ABC Commission says stems from a number of supply issues, a new liquor ordering vendor and higher-than-usual demand.
Some readers have suggested the system be privatized. The legislature examined changing the way liquor is sold in 2019 but took no action.
In light of the recent shortages, we put the question to our elected representatives in Raleigh. The Ledger reached out to all 17 state representatives and senators from Mecklenburg County. We heard back from three and are happy to share their replies to the question: “Do you support reform, and if so, what kind of reform?”
Rep. Terry Brown (Democrat, District 92):
I kind of have a bird’s eye view of being so close to South Carolina border down here and visiting their stores and seeing how North Carolina ABC stores work and talk with my colleagues in the legislature here, and I certainly think that we can modernize, and think about what we can do differently.
I don't think we’re ever going to get to the point in North Carolina where you're going to be able to walk into a Harris Teeter and buy a handle of Jack Daniels, like you are in several other states, but I definitely would support some type of reforms where we could have a system where we're still operating under the ABC board system, but we operate with certain limited licensures for boutique liquor stores that are specialized and getting rare products that are hard to find or specialize in certain different specialties that will help alleviate some of the burden while not taking away from our ABC stores.
Rep. Mary Belk (Democrat, District 88):
I have supported the wholesale and distilleries for beer and wine, and especially for our craft beers. I co-sponsored some of those bills because I feel like we need to be open to entrepreneurs, we need to be open to small businesses that say, 'hey we want to come in here,' in the state that promotes tourism and has a way for people to come in to visit North Carolina and spend their monies. So, I have supported opening that up.
Rep. Wesley Harris (Democrat, District 105):
Harris told us that the liquor shortage can’t be fixed with an individual policy decision and that the shortage is happening everywhere and is all because of the pandemic. He said he supports liberalizing liquor legislation.
We appreciate the replies from Reps. Brown, Belk and Harris.
We did not hear back from Reps. John Autry, John Bradford, Becky Carney, Carla Cunningham, Rachel Hunt, Brandon Lofton or Nasif Majeed. We also had no reply from Sens. Jeff Jackson, Natasha Marcus, Mujtaba Mohammed, DeAndrea Salvador or Joyce Waddell. Reps. Kelly Alexander and Carolyn Logan replied to us but we were unable to schedule an interview.
If any of them care to share their thoughts, we are all ears.
—Responses compiled by Ledger contributor Lindsey Banks
September’s rezonings 🔥: Townhouses, apartments … and specifics on the Cotswold Chick-fil-A
Buckle up, land use fans — it’s time once again for our monthly look at Charlotte’s rezoning petitions.
Where are developers planning townhouses? Where are they planning apartments? Nowadays, it’s more like: Where aren’t they planning townhouses and apartments, am I right?
Each month, we summarize the plans in a digestible format, so that Charlotte residents and people in the real estate industry can learn what’s up. We publish them before they become available on the city’s main rezoning site.
We share plans for townhouses in east Charlotte, Ballantyne and Derita; plans for apartments in west Charlotte; and … the never-before-published site plan to redo the Cotswold Chick-fil-A. Will it be the answer to solving those chicken-related traffic back-ups on Randolph Road? You make the call.
Getting clued in about land use in our city is one of many perks of Charlotte Ledger membership.
Our members can check out all of September’s rezonings in all their glory here:
F3 celebrates a decade of workouts
Hundreds of men from around the United States converged over the weekend in Wilmington, N.C., to mark the 10th anniversary of F3, the all-male free workout group that started in Charlotte in 2011. The centerpiece of the weekend was a mass workout on Saturday morning next to the Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier at Wrightsville Beach, attended by 355 men. Originally scheduled for January, the event was postponed nine months due to the Covid pandemic. F3, which started with a New Year's Day workout, has grown to nearly 3,000 weekly workouts across the nation and in six foreign countries. (Photo courtesy of F3 Nation)
Covid cases on the decline: The number of Covid cases in Mecklenburg County is declining, according to data released late last week. The number of cases, the percent positivity rate and hospitalizations are continuing to decrease. (Mecklenburg County data)
Masks effective in schools: School districts that don’t require masks in classrooms are 3.5 times more likely to have Covid outbreaks than those requiring masks, according to a report from Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris to county commissioners last week. She said the figure was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Observer)
Panthers defeated after early lead: The Carolina Panthers let the Philadelphia Eagles fly away with a 21-18 win after the Panthers had entered halftime with a 15-6 lead. (Observer)
Beer acquisition: A private-equity firm out of Alabama is acquiring Catawba Valley Brewing Co., which produces Catawba Brewing Co., Palmetto Brewing Co. and Twisp-branded craft beverages. Billy Pyatt, CEO of Catawba Valley, co-founded the Morganton-based brewery that has grown to include five brewing locations and six tasting rooms, including one in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood. (Biz Journal)
Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project