CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a January television interview following publication of her now very famous biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” Charlotte, N.C.'s Paula Broadwell described her subject as high-energy, ambitious and tenacious.
She might have been talking about herself. In many ways, Broadwell, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, mirrors the man with whom she's now accused of having an extramarital affair.
“Petraeus once joked I was his avatar,” she told the Observer in January.
Both are West Point graduates. Both have thrived in high-pressure situations, including war zones. And both are fitness fanatics. In Afghanistan in 2010, Broadwell regularly interviewed Petraeus while they went on runs together.
On Friday, Petraeus, America's most-decorated four-star general, resigned as CIA director after admitting to the affair. Almost immediately, Broadwell emerged as the other woman.
On Saturday, the scandal got stranger, as newspapers reported that the FBI stumbled onto the affair after Broadwell sent harassing emails to another woman close to Petraeus. The recipient of the emails was so frightened, The Washington Post reported, that she went to the FBI for protection and to help track down the sender.
Broadwell, a counterterrorism expert, moved to Charlotte in 2009 with her husband, Dr. Scott Broadwell, a radiologist with Charlotte Radiology, and their two young sons.
In a short time, Broadwell made many friends and built a high profile in Charlotte, particularly through volunteer work to raise money for wounded soldier organizations.
But she has been nowhere to be found since the scandal broke. On Saturday, several reporters staked out her house, a five-bedroom brick home on Mount Vernon Drive in Dilworth, which the couple bought in June 2009 for $795,000. Two cars were in the carport, but no one was answering the door.
“Did you ever see her running in the neighborhood?” a woman from the New York Post asked one passerby. “Do you know if this is even her house?”
Broadwell had planned to celebrate her 40th birthday at a party in Washington this weekend, with many reporters invited, according to the Associated Press. But her husband emailed guests to cancel the event late Friday.
One neighbor, Ed Williams, said he had emailed Broadwell Friday to ask if there was anything he could do. She responded that night, saying the family was doing OK and to keep an eye on their house. The Observer could not reach Broadwell for comment Saturday.
Like Petraeus, Broadwell has built a life of achievements. She grew up in Bismarck, N.D., where she was high school homecoming queen and valedictorian. She graduated at the top of her West Point class in physical fitness and earned a master's degree from Harvard. She served in active duty, worked in counterintelligence and lived in multiple countries.
She met Petraeus in 2006 when he spoke at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she was a graduate student. When she told him about her research interests, he handed her his card and offered his help.
Later, she began her doctoral dissertation, which included a study of his leadership. In 2010, when Petraeus took charge in Afghanistan, she decided to put the dissertation on hold to write a book. Vernon Loeb, an editor at The Washington Post, helped her write it, but she did the on-the-ground research, visiting Afghanistan six times, embedding with troops and interviewing Petraeus for hours.
To finish the book last fall in Charlotte, she often kept a grueling schedule. During the editing process, she said in an earlier Observer interview, she would go to bed at 2 a.m. and be up by 4 a.m.
Once the book was published in January, Broadwell traveled the country doing media interviews and talks. And her fashionable look fit no Army officer stereotype. She favored sleeveless outfits that showed off toned, muscular arms.
The 400-page biography is a flattering portrait of the general.
When she appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Stewart joked, “I mean the most controversial thing is, is he awesome, or incredibly awesome?”
On that same show, she challenged Stewart to a push-up contest to raise money for wounded warriors. She slipped off her high heels, dropped to the floor and pounded out 60 push-ups, besting his 38. He donated $20,000 to a veterans' organization Broadwell supports.
In September, Broadwell once again called on Stewart, who was in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention, to raise money for wounded veterans. In 24 hours, Broadwell, her husband and friends threw together a fundraising barbecue for about 200 people at a Myers Park neighborhood home, with Stewart as guest of honor.
After publishing her book, Broadwell had said one of her next tasks was to finish her dissertation. Petraeus was serving as an adviser. She had described the 60-year-old general to the Observer as a mentor, adding that “he makes me read books that he read when he was young.”
She also continued her fitness regimen. In September, when the Observer asked for nominations for the fittest people in Charlotte, a friend nominated her, noting that the 5-foot-8, 133-pound Broadwell made 20-mile bike rides, ran six to eight miles three times a week and lifted weights.
And her body fat? A lean 13 percent.
Broadwell has continued to work on behalf of wounded warriors, too.
She has served as an advisory board member of the Carolinas Freedom Foundation, which honors veterans.
In October, she attended the Honor the Warriors Bike Ride in Mint Hill, which featured national USO president Sloan Gibson and was organized by the Charlotte-based Military Family LifeStyle Charitable Foundation.
A week ago, she spoke at a benefit for Patriot Charities, a nonprofit supporting wounded warriors in the Carolinas.
Until last week, Broadwell seemed to be a woman who could do anything. Even her Linkedln profile exuded an uber-competence, listing her interests as surfing, kickboxing, wine tasting, foreign affairs and small arms marksmanship, among other things.
As of Saturday, she had become the talk of the nation, but not for her many achievements. Her name was the No. 1 search term on Google, with more than a million inquiries since Friday, twice the number of No. 2 Mike Brown, who was just fired as Los Angeles Lakers coach, and 10 times the number for No. 3 Selena Gomez, who just broke up with Justin Bieber.
Sales of her book have also skyrocketed. On Friday, the Amazon book sales ranking for “All In” was languishing around No. 126,000. By Saturday afternoon, it had climbed to No. 83.
Broadwell has said that she's donating a portion of her book profits to two organizations that serve wounded soldiers.