Mother grieves after losing one of her twin daughters in explosion and fire

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE — Jackie Graham says she remembers the anxiety she felt in letting her twin daughters take over the archery business run by her late husband, Buddy Sie Graham.
Sonya Graham, the younger of the twins by 30 minutes, perished in a fire at the business late Friday night.
S&S Graham Archery, located on U.S. 29 just north of China Grove, caught fire after an explosion about 9:30 p.m.
Sonya Graham, 46, was unable to make it out. Four others, including twin sister Sionna “Sie” Graham, were able to escape.
Frank Thomason, emergency management services coordinator, said Saturday morning the body of the victim has been sent to Chapel Hill for autopsy. Officials have not released a cause.
The two sisters have been involved in the business for 25 years.
Graham’s mother, Jackie, said Saturday it has been hard on the family.
“I can’t accept this. I don’t question God, but I have to live with it,” she said.
She and her daughters lived in a home on Parkside Drive in Salisbury.
The sisters were co-owners of the business. Both were single and had no children.
“This business was their life and their love. They were married to the business,” Jackie Graham said.
She recalled the day when her daughters asked if they could run their father’s business. Jackie had promised they could, but only after they finished college. Both attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It was Sonya who reminded her of that promise.
“Sonya said, ‘We finished college,’ ” Jackie said.
Jackie admits being reluctant to let the sisters carry on their father’s work. He died about 30 years ago of a heart attack.
As children, the girls enjoyed time on the family farm, hunting and being outdoorsy.
“They have been so close all through their lives,” Jackie said.
The sisters worked hard, and they often skipped going on vacation.
They spent Christmases with family, Jackie said.
She recalled that Sonya was the more outspoken one of the twins. Both women could relate well to others, something they got from their father.
Both were expert target shooters, also taught by their father.
“When God gives you a talent, I think you should use it to the best of your ability,” she said.
It was Sonya who brought a pot belly pig named Lulu home one day. She had it wrapped in a pink blanket.
Jackie said both daughters loved animals, and the family farm had 14 horses. But she drew the line at having a pig in the house.
The compromise was Lulu would stay at the shop.
People got word of Lulu and would stop by just to see her. Lulu was outside in a kennel at the time of the fire. She was not harmed. A Labrador named, Bear, was also not injured but had some hair get a little singed, Jackie said.
Jackie, who recently came home from the hospital after having a pacemaker placed, said she only wished God had spared her daughter.
Jackie has one son, Michael Brooks, from a previous marriage. He lives in Granite Quarry.
Multiple fire agencies responded to the scene Friday: Bostian Heights, Atwell, China Grove, Landis, Rockwell City, Salisbury City, South Salisbury, Locke and Faith fire departments, Rowan Rescue Squad, Rowan EMS and Emergency Management Services.
Also, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and China Grove Police responded. Norfolk Southern Railroad officials also arrived on the scene as a precaution to check the tracks behind the business, but they found no damage.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.