Monthly Archives: April 2014

Witnessing a young Pope John Paul II’s passion

While having lunch last spring with good friend David Ford of WFDD, I told him about the time my wife and I — during our honeymoon in 1984 — witnessed the charismatic aura of Pope John Paul II while visiting the Vatican. Ford liked the story so much that we headed straight back to the studio to record it, unscripted. It aired right around the time of the former pope’s canonization. You can hear the recording here.

AOL Travel: Popes John Paul II, John XXIII: A Saint’s Cousin on Being a Pilgrim in St. Peter’s Square for a Canonization


On the occasion of Pope Francis canonizing two of his beloved predecessors in April 2014, Zach Everson at AOL Travel asked if I would write about story about the spectacle of canonization in Rome from the perspective of someone who had a good reason in 2005 to attend one. I was glad to do it. The story is here.

Excerpt: “On that memorable day, my family and I –- more than 60 of us from America, each of us bursting with pride –- crowded into St. Peter’s Square for what was Benedict’s first canonization ceremony. Rome goes crazy for these events. Stores and restaurants, not to mention buses and cars, are festooned with posters of the saints-to-be. Everywhere we looked in the vicinity of the Vatican, we saw our family name and cousin’s gentle smile. We felt like special guests at a giddy global block party.”

Eden fights to set the record straight on coal ash spill

Dan River behind the spill

The Dan River in Eden, N.C., just above the Duke Energy plant and site of one of the nation’s worst coal-ash spills.

After 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash rom Duke Energy retention ponds spilled into the Dan River just outside Eden, N.C., in early February 2014, the news coverage by local, state and national media was intense. I wrote early on about the environmental impact, too, but saw a larger business story. Two-thirds of the Dan River was unaffected by the spill, yet the communities, and businesses, along that still-clean stretch of the river couldn’t be heard above the outcry over the massive spill. My cover story in the Triad Business Journal explores that angle.

Excerpt: “Add this irony for Eden and a host of Dan River communities west — upstream — of the spill: Their Dan River has no coal ash. It is just as clean and safe as in the days before the massive spill. That simple point has been lost in the great deluge of ongoing media coverage. Eden and Rockingham County have perhaps never gotten so much sustained national attention. Virtually all of it negative. Water, and coal ash, flow downstream. But a toxic perception has flowed in both directions.”

Brian Williams, Dan River Steam plant, coal ash spill, Duke Energy, Eden

Brian Williams, a program manager with the Dan River Basin Association, dredges the river bottom across from the Duke Energy steam plant.