In bookstores today: A memoir by the NYT’s Charles Blow

New York Times OpEd columnist — and former graphics director — Charles Blow has a new book that hits bookstores today.


It’s called Fire Shut Up in My Bones, and it’s a memoir of his formative years growing up in Louisiana.

The title is a reference to the Old Testament of the Bible. This is Jeremiah, chapter 20, verses eight and nine:

8. For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted In reproach and derision all day long.

9. But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.

The official book blurb says:

Blow’s attachment to his mother — a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry at a nearby factory, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a love of newspapers and learning — cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It’s damage that triggers years of anger and searing self-questioning.

Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing, and then enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he’s ever needed and wanted, until he’s called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse.

A powerfully redemptive memoir that both fits the tradition of African-American storytelling from the South, and gives it an indelible new slant.

Charles’ days as “just” a visuals manager are long gone, of course. He’s now a visual columnist for the Times and a constant presence on the cable TV new talk shows.


The people he hangs with these days are giving the book rave reviews.

Gwen Ifill of PBS Newshour writes:

Page by elegant page, Charles Blow has constructed an eloquent and courageous memoir that explains why black and white is never just that—whether it comes to race or the rich, conflicted stew of childhood memory.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper says the book is…

Powerful…so well-written.

Alice Walker, author of the Color Purple calls the memoir…

…a luminous memoir that digs deep into territory I’ve longed to read about in black men’s writing: into the horror of being submerged in a vast drowning swirl of racial, spiritual, and sexual complexity, only to somehow find one’s self afloat, though gasping for breath, and then, at long last and at great cost, swimming. I believe both Ancestors and Descendants will cheer.

Harvard professor and Oxford African American Studies Center director Henry Louis Gates says:

Above all, this is the story of a courageously honest man arriving at his decision to ‘stop running like the river . . . and just be the ocean, vast, deep, and exactly where it was always meant to be.’ Blow has written a classic memoir of a truly American childhood.

The Times ran an excerpt of the book on the cover of its Sunday Review section this past weekend. It’s pretty strong stuff. Read that here.

Like I said, the book is officially published today. You should be able to find it in your local bookstore. Naturally, it’s available at Amazon — currently for $17.08. Barnes and Noble is selling it for just 17 cents more.

Charles has embarked on a rather ambitious book tour. Last night, he was on Anderson Cooper 360. Today, he’s doing NPR’s Fresh Air, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and the Lawrence O’Donnell‘s Last Word on MSNBC.

Tomorrow, he’s doing a live chat with the Huffington Post, a radio show on WAMC in New York and MSNBC’s the Cycle. AFter that, he heads to Los Angeles, where he’ll be on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday.

Naturally, he’ll be hitting bookstores, book fairs and the like along the way. Find his complete schedule here.


A 1992 magna cum laude graduate at Grambling State University, Charles worked as a graphic artist at the Detroit News before joining the New York Times in 1994. He was promoted to graphics director and then to design director for news. He left in 2006 to become art director of National Geographic magazine but rejoined the Times in 2008 in his current position.

Find Charles’ web site here, his blog here, his column archive here and his “public figure” Facebook page here. Find his Twitter feed here.

Charles is a really great guy. I’ll never forget the kind words he had for me 14 years ago after my first big national-level presentation at SND/Minneapolis. His enthusiastic support filled me with confidence about my teaching skills as well as my work as a visuals leader.

I have a copy of Fire Shut Up in my Bones on order and I hope to get it signed one day soon.

Here’s wishing Charles the best of luck.

Birthdays for Tuesday, Sept. 23

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to six superlative visual journalists…


Lee Ann Elias is a designer for the Las Vegas Sun. A 2012 graduate of the University of Missouri, LeeAnn spent two years on the school’s student newspaper, the Maneater, and another year on the print desk for the Missourian. She also interned for the school’s Department of Residential Life, worked in the library and served as a design intern for the Tulsa (Okla.) World. She spent a year-and-a-half at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa, before moving to Vegas last March. Find her portfolio site here and her Tumblr blog here.


Behrouz Gholipour is a designer for Hamshahri magazines in San Jose, Calif. Originally from Iran, Behrouz is a graduate of San Jose State University. He turns 33 today.


Samantha Gowen is an assistant business editor for the Orange County Register. A 1990 graduate of the University of North Carolina, Sam spent three years as a copy editor for the Progress-Index of Petersburg, Va., and then two years as pagination systems editor of the Palm Beach Post before moving to the West Coast in 2000. She worked at the Register as a copy editor, a page designer and an iPad producer. She’s also served as “trending reporter,” car culture reporter, pets editor and a page designer. For the past ten years, she’s also taught introductory sessions for the incoming classes at the UCLA Daily Bruin. Find Sam’s web site here and her Twitter feed here.


Kevin Hand is a graphic artist, illustrator and animator based in Jersey City, N.J. He began his newspaper graphics career straight out of high school in 1982 at the Fort Pierce, Fla., News Tribune. In 1986, Kevin moved to Gannett’s Florida Today and then to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1988. Kevin moved to the Chicago Tribune in 1997 and then became assistant graphics editor at Newsweek in 2000. He took a buyout in 2009. Among his freelance clients: Popular Science, Men’s Journal, Field and Stream, the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger and Titmouse Studios in Hollywood, Calif., where Kevin worked on TV programs for the MTV network. Find his portfolio site here. Kevin turns 52 today.


Peggy Holman is a journalist, author and founder and executive director of Journalism that Matters, a coalition of journalists and educators who want to reshape the news and information ecosystem. A 1976 graduate of the University of Washington, Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001. In 2007, she wrote the Change Handbook, that documents creative responses using innovative engagement processes.


Her latest book — Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, published in 2010 — won the Nautilus Gold Book Award. Find her personal web site here and her Twitter feed here.


Steve Wilson is a senior artist and food blogger at the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, Steve has worked at the Star-Telegram for 29 years, winning awards from the Dallas Society of Illustrators, the Dallas Press Club, the Society for Newspaper Design and the Associated Press. Steve’s been blogging about food for a while, now, but in 2012, he ratcheted this work up a notch or two by blogging for his newspaper. Find his blog here and his blog’s Facebook fan page here and his Twitter feed here. Find some of his old print graphics work here.

Behrouz, Lee Ann, Peggy, Samantha, Kevin and Steve share a birthday with actors Jason Scott Greenspan (better known as Jason Alexander), Kate Lauren French, Rosalind Chao, Walter David Pidgeon, Joseph Yule Jr. (better known as Mickey Rooney); musicians Angela Maria “Ani” DiFranco, Julio José Iglesias de la Cueva, John William Coltrane, Ray Charles Robinson and “the Boss,” Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen; sports greats Lawrence Hogan “Larry” Mize (golf), Matthew Ryan “Matt” Kemp (baseball), Brandon Jennings (basketball), Christopher Duan “Chris” Johnson (football), John Harbaugh, Marvin Ronald Lewis and Martin Edward “Marty” Schottenheimer (football coaches); astronaut William Cameron “Willie” McCool; ancient leaders Kublai Khan and Gaius Octavius (better known as Caesar Augustus); longtime patient “Typhoid” Mary Mallon; comic book creator Peter Allen David and journalists Walter Lippman and Ana Marie Cox (founder of the Wonkette blog).

In addition, today is National Voter Registration Day, Restless Legs Awareness Day, Innergize Day, Celebrate Bi-Sexuality Day and Checkers Day (otherwise known as Dogs in Politics Day). Seriously.

Best wishes, all! Have an excellent birthday today!

Tonight: The debut of ‘Gotham’ on Fox. Today: Ryan Huddle’s ‘Gotham’ posters.

My old pal Ryan Huddle — a features designer for the Boston Globe — has been a busy guy lately.

Yeah, he and his wife — humor columnist and author Aprill Brandon — have a young son, Riker, who keeps them occupied. I mean, in addition to that. Ryan received some love from the Fox TV network lately for posters he designed for the new Gotham TV show that debuts tonight on their lineup.


Gotham will tell stories set in fictional Gotham City — better known as the home of Bruce Wayne, aka the Batman. The idea is to show the events that lead up to Batman and his compulsion to rid that dirty city of crime.

The show will debut tonight — at 8 p.m., here in the LA area. As they say: Check your local listings. The reviews have been outstanding.

Ryan tells us his poster was for a fan contest that was announced back during the San Diego Comicon. Back in July, the Hollywood Reporter reported:

The network is asking fans to create their own Gotham poster and/or trailer with the grand-prize winners earning a trip to the New York City premiere party of the Batman prequel series…

The poster contest tasks fans to design a one-sheet utilizing specific assets, such as graphics, fonts, images and title cards provided by Fox.

Ryan told me last week:

Please don’t tell anyone yet — because they have not announced it yet — is that I won the Gotham Fan poster contest. Aprill and I are going to New York to attend the premire in Times Square and Fox is going to print the poster and the cast is going to sign it.

So I will have an awesome new poster for Riker’s Room.

Now that the dynamic three are back from the real Gotham City, Ryan tells us how the whole thing came about. Aprill was the one who spotted the contest and urged Ryan to enter. Especially given Ryan’s previous work — he’s done tons of movie-oriented pages for the Victoria (Texas) Advocate and, now, the Boston Globe.




Ryan tells us:

Fox provided the images and title Gotham to use. There were 3 things were we judged on: creativity, originality and use of provided art. You could not use anything Batman in the posters.

Ryan created seven posters in all, including the one I showed you above. He says…

…all of them are pretty straightforward on the art. The one with the handprint is the only one on which I really used any massive Photoshop work on Ben McKenzie (police officer James Gordon) and Jada Pinkett Smith (a new character, crime boss Fish Mooney) in the print.


The first poster I did was the one with the art deco border.


I think this was my favorite one I just like that style.

Then I decided to play it safe and do two that look more TV show poster like. Those are pretty straightforward.

I showed you one of these earlier. Here’s the other.


For the horizontal one, I tried to place and blue and red glow on the sides of the logo.

The day of the deadline (Aug. 20),  I was in the cafeteria at work getting coffee and thought of one with characters shattering. So when I got home at 7 p.m., I started to break the one with Ben apart first, but it was taking a really long time to do it. I knew I would never get done by the midnight deadline.


Luckily, I had the elements that I used before for a piece I did for Warm Bodies...


…so I was able to use some of those pieces to make the shattering effect and move some things around and make some more cuts in it. I already had all the people and alley backgrounds cut out from the posters I did earlier.

I was able to color correct, size and layer the images on top of the characters. I used luminosity and some curves to make the main background come through and to tone down the color of the people.


I got done with about 20 minutes to spare and was able to send them off just in time.


Ryan sent all the artwork off on Aug. 20. The winners were supposed to be notified Aug. 27, but, Ryan says…

Fox called me up on Sunday the 7th and told me they enjoyed my poster and that I was the winner. They asked if I would be available to come to New York City.

They flew all three of us out to New York and then they had a car waiting for us. That was cool, because we walked down to baggage claim and a guy was there with my name on a sign. That was cool.

They put us up in the Bryant Park Hotel which is probably the closest I will ever get to rich people.

Wikimedia Commons

The Bryant Park Hotel is in midtown Manhattan, just a couple of blocks from Times Square. It’s in the old American Radiator Building, built in 1924 and designed by noted architects John Howells and Raymond Hood, the same guys who designed – media business alert! — Rockefeller Center and Chicago’s Tribune Tower.

So, how was it? Ryan says, simply:

New York was Awesome.


Mostly we hung out just walking around. We went to Central Park and walked around for hours.


I got to hang out with Martin and Carrie Gee. They were kind enough to watch Riker for us during the event.


He was all smiles when we got back.

This is where Aprill picks up the story in an epic blog post last week. She writes that the premiere…

…was going to be fancy. Not fancy-fancy, but fancy enough that Ryan had to borrow a suit and I spent hours scouring my closet, trying on different things and asking him things like “would it be inappropriate to wear a dress to the premiere that has a curse word on it?

Aprill tells us:

As for the episode, I loved it. They showed the whole thing. I’m definitely a fan so far. Ryan thought it was pretty good too.

The pilot episode was written by executive producer Bruno Heller, who’s known for the suspense thriller TV show the Mentalist. It was directed by Danny Cannon, who is famous for his work on Nikita and the various CSI shows.

Doctor Who fans might take note: Sean Pertwee, the son of Doctor No. 3 Jon Pertwee, plays Alfred Pennyworth, young master Bruce Wayne’s butler.


David Hinckley of the New York Daily News writes that Gotham

…has the look of a stylish winner.

The pilot of the hot-buzz series… plays like a 45-minute movie, with stunning visuals that never feel like a shrunken TV version of the Batman films against which it will inevitably be measured.

The screening was held in the great hall of New York Public Library.


Fox publicity photo

Variety‘s Brian Steinberg reported the next day:

There is no Batman in Fox’s Gotham, just a young version of his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, who, just as in the four-color origin story, sees his mother and father gunned down in a mugging gone terribly wrong. James Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie, vows to bring the perpetrators to justice, but in doing so, the young detective threatens to upend the corruption that is at the heart of the dark city.

Once guests got a taste for the show, all they had to do was follow the umbrellas laid out like bread crumbs from Hansel and Gretel…

Fox publicity photo

…to a massive aerie high up in the Library, where a room was transformed to look like a Gotham City speakeasy.

Fox publicity photo

Batman probably would not have taken a drink here, but many of the attendees exhibited few qualms about doing so.

Naturally, Ryan and Aprill were invited.


Aprill writes in her blog:

As far as I can tell, the main goal of a movie or TV premiere party is to skulk around the room until you weasel your way close enough to one of the stars to ask them to take a photo with you.

Unfortunately, Ryan and I are those people who like to think we’re above having our photos taken with celebrities. That’s what we tell ourselves, at least. Yeah, we’re way too cool for that.

In reality, however, we are totally those people who want our photos taken with celebrities. We’re just too scared to ever actually ask.

That didn’t stop them from taking pictures, though. Aprill helpfully posted a few.



Make sure you visit Aprill’s blog to read about the highlight of the night: An encounter with San Diego native Camren Bicondova, who plays Selina Kyle — Catwoman — in the new show.

Fox publicity photo

Find the official Fox network web site for Gotham here. Find Gotham‘s Facebook fan site here and its Twitter feed here.

A graduate of Collins College in Phoenix, Ryan Huddle spent seven years as a designer and creative services coordinator for the Hutchinson (Kan.) News. He moved to the Brown Publishing Company in Troy, Ohio in 2003 but then, two years later, became creative director of the Victoria Advocate in Victoria, Texas. He moved to the Globe in 2011.


Aprill Brandon is a freelance writer and blogger. A 2004 graduate of Ohio’s Miami University, Aprill spent a year as education reporter for the Troy, Ohio, Daily News before joining the Victoria Advocate in 2006 as an arts and entertainment repairer and as a columnist.

After she and Ryan moved to Boston, Aprill began a column for the Weekly Dig. She also continues to write for the Advocate. An e-book collecting her columns — Why Does the Cheese Always Fall? –  was published last summer.


Find that here and the Kindle version here. Find her blog here and her Twitter feed here.

Find Ryan’s online portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

More movie-themed work by Ryan of the Boston Globe:

Find Ryan’s online portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Birthdays for Monday, Sept. 22

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to four wonderful visual journalists…


Karen Bellville Beaman is associate course director for design and computer graphics at Full Sail University in Orlando, Fla. A 2004 graduate of Purdue University, Karen studied animation and computer graphics technology. She spent a year-and-a-half at the Journal and Courier of Lafayette, Ind., before moving to the News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla., in 2006. She joined the Orlando Sentinel in 2008 and then moved to Full Sail in 2012. Find Karen’s portfolio here and her Twitter feed here.


Jeff Carney is corporate director for digital content development for the Berkshire Hathaway Media group of Omaha, Neb. A 1990 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Jeff served as managing editor of two small community papers — the Ashland Gazette and the Waverly News — taught as an adjunct at Creighton University and shot for the Des Moines (Iowa) Register before becoming a photographer for the Omaha World-Herald in 1996. He worked his way up to assistant managing editor and was named managing editor for digital in early 2010. He moved into his current position in 2012. He also teaches — again, as an adjunct — at his alma mater in Lincoln. Jeff turns 54 today.


Chris Hickerson is a WordPress engineer at DEG, a marketing and advertising agency in Kansas City, Mo. A 2009 graduate of the University of Kansas, Chris served as web editor for the student paper there, the Daily Kansan. He spent six months as a sports copy editor and designer for the Kansas City Star and nearly two years as a web designer for the Tulsa World. He moved to the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2013 as a web editor and designer. He left the Gazette later last year and spent some time with Penton Media of Overland Park, Kansas, before joining DEG. Find his web site here and his Twitter feed here.


Evelyn Ortega is a freelance designer based in Atlanta, Ga. A 1996 graduate of the University of Miami, Evelyn interned with the Miami Herald. She moved to the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle in 1996 and then again to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2000 as manager of the print design desk. She left newspapers in 2009. Her firm, Evelyn Ortega Creative, specializes in publication design, PowerPoint and interactive presentations. Find her Twitter feed here.

Karen, Chris, Evelyn and Jeff share a birthday with actors Bonnie Lynne Hunt, Scott Vincent James Baio, Paul Le Mat, Thomas Andrew “Tom” Felton and Lianne “Billie” Piper; musicians Andrea Bocelli, Deborah Anne “Debby” Boone, Antonia Christina Basilotta (better known as Toni Basil), Joan Marie Larkin (better known as Joan Jett) and Adam Burbank Lazzara (of Taking Back Sunday); sports greats Tai Reina Babilonia (figure skating), Robert Granville “Bob” Lemon, Vincent Maurice “Vince” Coleman (both baseball), Thomas Charles “Tommy” Lasorda (baseball manager) and Robert Luther “Lute” Olson (basketball coach); physicist Michael Faraday; controversial pastor Jeremiah Alvesta Wright Jr. and Neil Patrick Cavuto of Fox Business News.

In addition to the Fall Equinox — which happens at 7:29 p.m. PDT tonight — today is Family Day, Hobbit Day, Dear Diary Day, Car Free Day, American Buiness Women’s Day, Elephant Appreciation Day and Ice Cream Cone Day. Seriously.

Have an excellent birthday today, all! Best wishes!

Twenty-five years ago tonight: Hurricane Hugo

Twenty-five years ago tonight, I spent one of the most terrifying nights of my life curled up with my wife, Sharon, on our fold-out sleeper sofa, listening to our neighborhood ripped apart by the fury of Hurricane Hugo.

A quarter of a century ago. Wow. As you know I’m a guy who’s pretty conscious of history and the passage of time. But this just floors me.

The weirdest thing about that night: We lived in Rock Hill, S.C., just south of Charlotte, N.C. We were 180 miles away from where Hugo made landfall near Charleston.


We expected some wind and rain. But we didn’t have a clue we’d be struck by a full-scale hurricane — one that had spun up to Category 4 in strength before making landfall and wasn’t officially downgraded to a tropical storm until well after it ripped through our area.

In the Caribbean and in the U.S., Hugo did about $10 billion in property damage. Some folks in the region were without electricity for up to three weeks. About 100 people died in total, although — if memory serves — only six or seven in the U.S.

It was a huge event in the history of my home state and in the memories of any of us who were in Hugo’s path.

The Post and Courier of Charleston commemorated the day today by asking the question: What if it happened again today?


As you can see from the deck: It would be a mess. The feds use outdated software to plan for hurricanes and, therefore, they consistently underestimate impact. And Charleston, surrounded by water, is particularly vulnerable to storms of this size.

Those links go to today’s main stories. Average daily circulation for the Post and Courier is 87,817.

The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg focused on the damage Hugo did in Charleston that night.


Read the story here. Circulation for the Herald-Journal is 31,940.

The folks in Florence led today’s paper with a vintage sepia-toned picture of devastation around a local motel the next morning.


No one was quite sure where Hugo would hit, so tourists and residents alike fled the coastal regions as the storm approached. They were surprised to take such a fierce hit that far inland.

Find the anniversary story here. Average daily circulation  for the Florence Morning News is 31,237.

The State of Columbia retold one of the most compelling stories from that night: Folks in McClellanville, a tiny fishing community maybe 30 miles from ground zero on the Isle of Palms…


…huddled together on the highest ground in town — the local high school –  far back enough from the waterfront that it should have been a safe refuge.

Hugo produced a storm surge of more than 20 feet. Water moved inland, surrounded the school and poured in through broken windows and around door frames. Terrified evacuees, gathered in darkness in the school cafeteria, first climbed onto tables and then knocked out ceiling tiles in order to lift children into the rafters to keep them from drowning.

That didn’t seem much safer. Outside, 130-mph winds ripped mightily at the school’s roof.

Then, nature took mercy on the town of McClellanville. The winds and tide subsided. No one had died. Evacuees filed out to discover the wall of water had tossed their cars around like Hot Wheels.


It was — and still is — a terrifying story. The State today led with an account of all that, featuring a terrifying quote headline.


Find the story here by the State‘s Jason Ryan. Find video and photo galleries here.

Average daily circulation for the State is 70,980.

My favorite front page of the day, however, is this one from the tiny Item of Sumter, circulation 13,644.


Reversing the entire front page out of black is a risky thing to do, but not what the folks at the item did:

  • They bumped up the point size of their body copy so it’d be more readable on a black background.
  • They used sans-serif type — rather than the usual serif — because serifs can get lost when reversed out.
  • They kept the rest of their design very clean and let the black background do the shouting.

There’s one more thing you can do with a page like this: You can make sure the black isn’t a four-color black. Use a mix like, say, 15 cyan and 100 black — with no magenta or yellow ink whatsoever. Even if you have a few registration issues, your copy will, most likely, still be readable.

I can’t tell if that’s what Sumter did here. Nor can I tell if print copies looked as good as this PDF does. But I sure like what I’m seeing.

When you go to the Item‘s home page today Wham! — you’re smacked in the eyeballs with an enormous picture of the paper’s front page from 25 years ago this coming Wednesday…


… which was the first time the paper could publish after the storm. Note the note at the top right:

Special thanks to the Times and Democrat of Orangeburg for typesetting and publishing today’s edition. The Item hopes to resume its normal publication Schedule beginning Monday.

What did my paper at the time — the Herald of Rock Hill — do today? I dunno. Here’s their anniversary story, but sadly, their front page was a no-show in the Newseum today. If any of my friends in the McClatchy design hub in Charlotte would care to send me today’s page, I’d be happy to add it here.

All these front pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

Back to the night of Sept. 21, 1989…

I sat up that evening watching live TV coverage as the eye of Hugo seemingly smashed head-on into Charleston. We expected heavy wind and rain the next morning, but we didn’t expect it to get bad until after daybreak. I set my alarm for an hour or so earlier than normal — so I could drive to work before it got too messy — and went to sleep right around midnight.


Sharon and I woke up around 3 a.m. to this horrible, horrible howling noise. What the hell is that? Turned out to be the wind. I had never been in a hurricane before. I had no idea the racket they make. God, it was awful.

We tried to go back to sleep. Within minutes, the power went out.

My old Herald colleague Deborah Burriss posted on Facebook, five years ago:

That’s a night I’ll never forget.

The copydesk stayed late, waiting for the storm to hit Columbia, which was supposed to get it bad. Then, we got hit with tornado warnings, so we thought it safer to stay at The Herald.

After the power went off all over town, we decided to go home. I lived less than five minutes away, but it was terrifying. Total darkness, stuff flying everywhere. A transformer blew, flaming out as I drove by.

By 4 a.m., so many tree branches and debris from our disintegrating apartment building had bounced off our bedroom windows that we decided to move downstairs.

We lit candles and found a battery-powered transistor radio with which to pull in a local station. We succeeded for a few minutes, but then the announcer said his transmitter was on fire. Then he was knocked off the air.

We were terrified. How much worse can this get?

Around 6 a.m. on the morning of the 22nd, the wind suddenly died down and the sky brightened just a bit. I ventured outside for just a few moments. Trees and power lines were down. Debris was everywhere.

I ducked back inside. Sure enough, moments later, the wind picked up again. I couldn’t believe the eye of the storm had stayed intact this far inland. But sure enough, it had.

Then, suddenly, the storm was gone. The wind stopped blowing, the rain slowed to a misty trickle and then ended. The clouds parted. The sun came out.

But everything was deathly still. No singing birds. No chirping crickets. No sounds of radio or TV. No sounds of traffic on Cherry Road, a block or so away.

The air quickly became hot and muggy. But the blue skies were a stark — and welcome — contrast to what we had suffered through just hours before.

We were lucky: Our townhouse apartment was surrounded by units on either side that protected us from the worst of the wind.


But we could see what had caused some of the racket overnight: Large chunks of our roof were gone with the wind.


With school canceled, Sharon straightened up the place while I dashed in to work.

All down Cherry Road, I saw things like this:


That was one of my favorite Hugo photos, snapped by my colleagues at the Herald.

Here was the view out on Cherry Road, near our apartment.


That’s a Wendy’s sign, denuded and leaning to the left.

And where had that fickle Wendy gotten off to? She was out messing around with a neighborhood kid:


We were lucky. We got power back at our apartment the very next day. The secret to having your power restored quickly: Live directly behind a Wal-Mart. Works every time.

Power was out for weeks, though, for many residents. We invited folks we worked with to come over and take hot showers.

Not together. However, now that you mention it, that’s not a bad idea, either.

Hugo struck in the wee hours of a Friday morning. That afternoon, our paper attempted to put out our Saturday and Sunday editions with power from a generator trucked in from Raleigh.

I built a nice photo page for our Sunday Perspective front. As soon as the page went to plate, however, I was told we’d be producing a 12-page special section for Sunday’s paper.

A number of us came in Saturday. I came up with a design format, which we handed off to editors. We divvied up the section into geographical regions and turned everyone loose. Here was the cover I designed, with art by photo chief Andy Burriss:


I don’t know if you can read the lede on that cover story. It’s uncredited, but I’d bet you it was written by Terry Plumb, our editor. It sounds like him:

South Carolina does not suffer her villains easily, an she will rank Hurricane Hugo up there with General Sherman, carpetbaggers and the boll weevil.

Pages two and three focused on the city of Rock Hill (click any of these for a larger view).


Pages four and five looked at the rural areas of our coverage area, York and Chester counties.


Pages six and seven focused on whatever cleanup and recovery photos we could get Friday and Saturday.


Pages eight and nine looked at Charleston and the devastated lowcountry.


Page 10 was a state-wide roundup. Page 11 focused on the Caribbean, where Hugo had beaten up the islands pretty badly before it had even gotten to us.


Page 12 — the back page — was mine. However, I found myself handicapped by the loss of my Mac. When power finally came back on Friday night, the surge fried my power supply. I was forced to cobble together pieces from whatever I could find on floppy drives, using one of our ad production Macs.


In the lower left is a hasty recreation of a hard copy I had saved of an Associated Press graphic by Dean Caple and Karl Gude.

Later, I did manage to put together some nicer pieces. I showed you one earlier of Hugo’s trek across the state. This one shows the mechanical forces a hurricane uses to rip apart your house.


I had made the switch from MacDraw to Freehand just five months before. As you can see, I leaned on gradient blends just a bit too much in those days.

Our carriers did a really swell job getting papers out in the aftermath of Hugo. In a gallery of reader-submitted photos on the Herald on the 20th anniversary five years ago, I found this picture of former carrier Betty Johnson, whose work that day earned her a T-shirt. She says she wears the shirt once a year, to commemorate Hurricane Hugo.


Yep: I designed that T-shirt.

While I was digging around in my Hugo files, I also found the special section inserted the Sunday after the storm by our competitors up the road, the Charlotte Observer.


The Observer’s special section contained three or four good-sized graphics — a lot more than I was able to provide for the Herald.


The reasons for that: a) The Observer employed five news artists. I was a one-man staff at the time. And b) Presumably, the Observer didn’t lose its news art Macs to an electrical glitch.


The Observer graphics were drawn by Mike Homan and Mike Fisher. Mike the former  now designs the paper’s page one at the McClatchy hub there. Mike the latter spent a few years with KRT’s News in Motion and is now with the San Antonio Express News.

The Charleston paper — actually, there were twin papers at the time; the morning News & Courier and the evening Evening Post — one-upped us all by rushing to press this magazine-format reprint edition containing stories and photos from the week’s papers:


The design looks a little dated now, but then again, it is dated. This printed 25 years ago.



Hugo set off a series of events that happened very quickly for me that winter.

  • Just a couple of weeks after Hugo, I visited England for my first-ever international speaking engagement.
  • That winter, the Daniels family of Raleigh sold the Herald and its sister papers in Beaufort and Hilton Head to McClatchy company of Sacramento, Calif.
  • McClatchy immediately ordered up a redesign of the Herald, which I executed. It was the second daily redesign of my career. I was only 27 years old.
  • Then, McClatchy authorized us to hire a second artist. We selected Michael Dabrowa of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Michael would later spend eight years as graphics editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Back to Hugo, though: As chance would have it, Sharon and I had spent a long Labor Day weekend in Charleston with her parents, just three weeks before the city was was nearly wiped off the map.

Charleston, as always, had been gorgeous:



After the redesign, Sharon and I took time off during her spring break to visit my dad, who had just moved to Moncks Corner, north of Charleston.  We couldn’t resist driving back into town to see what the place looked like, six months after our last visit.

And, in fact, the tourist-conscious downtown area looked pretty good. Most buildings were already repaired. A few still had scaffolding up, like this place just off the famed battery, along the waterfront.


Here are four houses along the famed Rainbow Row. Three had been repaired; fixes to the fourth were underway.


The outlying areas to the north and east of town, however, still showed heavy scars from Hugo. Rich houses along the beachfront on Sullivan’s Island — actual ground-zero the night of Sept. 21 — sat empty, some no longer attached to their foundations.


Apartments and condos, no longer structurally sound, had been abandoned in place, awaiting demolition crews.


Just a few months before, this area had been lively with activity. What a depressing sight this was.


And along the beach itself, officials had erected fences to collect wind-driven sand, in hopes of accumulating the protective sand dunes lost to the storm surge.


We found all sorts of interesting debris still washing up along the beach, six months after the storm.


A few miles up the coast, though, was where the truly stunning visuals were.

I wrote a few minutes ago about the most terrifying story that came out of Hugo: What happened in the town of McClellanville. I wanted to see the town for myself. We couldn’t find the school. Perhaps it had been demolished.

We did, however, find fishing boats in the strangest places.


Namely, everywhere except the water.


The final item in my collection of Hugo memorabilia is this board game, rushed out in time for Christmas that year:



The orange cards, by the way, are “experience.” The blue cards are “adjustor” and represent comical dealings with insurance companies.

That’s who everyone cursed in South Carolina after Hugo, by the way. Insurance companies, as opposed to FEMA.

I took those pictures five years ago. I’m not even sure this little gem survived the massive purge we made for our move to California last year.

Hugo was my first hurricane. We had had storms come through before — in particular, I remember Hurricane David dumping a ton of rain on us in 1979, causing one of my Friday night high-school football games to be postponed until Saturday.

But the howl of wind moving in excess of 75 mph, I had never heard before that night.
Since then, though, we have been through a series of hurricanes and tropical storms. Fran, which smacked us so hard in Raleigh in 1996 that we didn’t get power back for nine days. Emily. Bertha. Allison. Eduardo. Leslie. Ernesto. Bonnie. Charlie. Gaston. Ophelia. Irene, the only storm for which we evacuated our home in Virginia Beach. Probably a few more I can’t recall right now.

Hurricanes are deadly. They’re loud and terrifying — for years, our daughter, Elizabeth, referred to Fran as the night we had “big thunder,” because that’s what it sounded like to her: Big thunder that wouldn’t stop.

Twenty five years later, Hugo still gives me a shiver. I don’t want to go through that again anytime soon.