Charlita Cardwell, a Winston-Salem native and a survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, has died from complications of pancreatic cancer, her twin sister said. She was 46.
Cardwell died Jan. 16 in Manhattan, N.Y., according to her obituary.
Chareba Buckhannon of High Point said that her sister, Charlita Cardwell, lived an extraordinary life.
“She was tenacious about living life to the fullest and enjoying life without regrets,” Buckhannon said. “She was passionate about education, and she had a thirst for learning and experiencing new cultures.”
Laurie N. Robinson Haden, a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at ViacomCBS Inc., posted a statement on her LinkedIn page about Cardwell’s death.
“It is with sadness that I share the passing of CCWC member, Charlita Cardwell, after a long battle with cancer,” wrote Robinson Haden, the founder and chief executive officer of Corporate Counsel Women of Color. “She (Cardwell) was a beautiful light. We will forever remember her smile, kindness, and impact on those around her.”
Cardwell was in her apartment across the street from the World Trade Center when the terrorist attacks happened on Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, she was working as an investment management associate with the law firm, Dewey Ballantine LLP in New York City.
Cardwell saw the first plane hit the trade center on television, then called her mother in Winston-Salem to say she was OK. After she fled the apartment, the towers collapsed, blowing out her windows and raining dust ash into her apartment, the Winston-Salem Journal reported on Sept. 22, 2001.
“All the symbols of my success, including my furniture and apartment in Battery Park City, are now gone,” Cardwell said. “It’s making me think that perhaps it’s appropriate to re-evaluate my definition of success.”
The terrorist attacks caused the death of 2,977 victims and 19 plane hijackers, according to news reports. More than 6,000 people were injured.
Cardwell, who was 28 at the time, lived in a New York hotel room in the aftermath of the attacks. She believed that God had saved her from being killed or wounded.
“I think that’s the challenge: to ascertain how I’m going to be an instrument and what role he wants me to play,” Cardwell told the Journal more than 18 years ago. “With everything having been destroyed, it’s certainly a message to me that it’s going to be a time of rebirth, of starting over, reaffirming my commitment and beliefs.”
Cardwell’s mother, Joan Cardwell, was a longtime employee at Carver High School and the first woman and African American to lead the Forsyth County Board of Elections as its chairwoman. Joan Cardwell died in May 2009.
Buckhannon said that their mother “instilled in us the vision that anything was possible, and we could achieve anything and do anything.”
Their mother provided Charlita and Chareba with lessons in violin, piano, jazz, ballet, tap dancing, baton twirling and tennis, Buckhannon said.
“She (Joan Cardwell) wanted us to understand that we had choices,” Buckhannon said. “Charlita continued to exercise those choices.”
Charlita Cardwell worked as a vice president and senior counsel at the American Express Co. in New York City for 11 years. She left the company in April 2018 to focus on her family’s investment company, Moore Freres & Co., where she served as its chief executive officer of its foundation, according to her obituary.
“Charlita made an impression on our organization in many ways during her career in the general counsel’s organization,” Laureen Seeger, American Express’ chief legal counsel, said in an emailed statement about Cardwell. “She embraced the mission of her clients to help small businesses and was an effective and valued colleague.
“She also demonstrated her commitment to promoting diversity in business and civic sectors through her terrific support of and work with organizations like the Council for Urban Professionals,” Seeger said. “Charlita truly represents what it means to be a trusted colleague and friend.”
Cardwell worked nearly three years as the assistant general counsel, general counsel and corporate secretary at Foodbuy LLC, which is an unit of the Compass Group in Charlotte, according to her obituary.
From 2000 to 2003, she worked as an investment management associate for Dewey Ballantine LLC in New York City. Cardwell also worked for two years as an finance associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in New York.
During her life, Cardwell visited 75 countries, Buckhannon said.
Cardwell attended Bishop McGuinness High School before graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, N.H., her obituary says. She received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wake Forest University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.