Matthew Casella, a member of the International Socialist Organization in Greensboro, recounts what he experienced during the Charlottesville car-ramming attack that took the life of Heather Heyer and injured 19 others on Aug. 12. His comments were made at a vigil in Greensboro the following day.
As we moved down the street, we encountered many parked cars that were in the road stopped by the march. They were honking in support and getting out and cheering. Most were filming on their phones. We reached Fourth Street and Water [Street], and after a brief pause we decided to move up Fourth to return to Justice Park. It was a narrow street that had two parked cars on it, and as before their occupants and drivers were filming, some outside the vehicles.
I turned to the left of those vehicles and walked up onto the sidewalk along a brick wall. At this point I was surrounded by comrades, people I had known for a long time, as well as those I had just met. Our spirits were high, and we were chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” I was on that street corner yesterday.
There was a noise I did not recognize. Some people were standing in between the parked cars, and I watched them be pulled under the wheels of that car as it smashed over them and on top of their bodies. They were run over and the car repeatedly ran over them. I could not see where my partner was, and then I saw her rushing in to help, and, terrified that more was to come, I tried to hold her back to keep her safe. We then tried to administer aid, but I forgot everything I had learned about medicine and first aid. I had gauze in my backpack, and I had thought maybe we’d get beaten by the police or shot at or had teargas thrown at us, but not this.
And I saw the woman I’d met earlier, and I held gauze on her leg and shouted for medics. And when one came and took over I began looking for my comrades. My partner was holding a woman’s hand while the medic continued to work. I lost track of the two others in my car I had driven with and was terrified they were hurt. I found comrades and we shouted at each other over the noise to organize and retreat safely. People shouted to clear the intersection, and the noise of the military trucks and fire trucks sounded. As my partner and I left, we moved through a wall of police officers just standing there not doing anything and looking like they wanted to clock out for the day.
When I close my eyes, I see the cars crushing human life. I couldn’t sleep last night. This attack wounded my heart and my mind. We were victims of a terrorist attack, and it stabbed straight into my heart. The wound it left in my psyche and my soul is painful, but it pales in comparison to the loss of the comrade and the injuries suffered by 19 others.