Mary didn’t realize what was happening until the car hit her.
“It came so fast I didn’t really see what happened, but I saw people’s bodies flying,” she told The Daily Beast from outside Charlottesville, Virginia. “The car hit me in the leg. … It cut through to the bone.”
Mary, a 19-year-old college student, had driven down to the University of Virginia on Saturday morning with friends to protest against a white supremacist gathering where men marched with torches the previous night. The next day saw a car plow into anti-racism protesters, killing one and injuring more than a dozen others.
“I felt that it was my duty as a white citizen of America to go out there and protest against these white nationalists, these white supremacists,” Mary told The Daily Beast.
The anti-racist march felt peaceful at first, despite the haze of pepper spray that hung over the demonstrators, according to Mary’s friend, Caroline who came down with her.
“It was this very cathartic moment, all of us at the same time,” Caroline, a college sophomore said. “It almost felt like the Women's March."
The crowd was just blocks away from Justice Park, a recently renamed square that formerly bore the name of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, when they turned up a one-way street around 2 p.m. They waved Black Lives Matter banners and rainbow flags.
“It felt really great,” Mary said. “We had so many people marching together.”
Then a gray Dodge Challenger barrelled towards them, swerving “off the main road and onto the side road where people were marching,” Mary said. The car was going fatally fast, 40 miles an hour by her estimate.
“It came so fast I didn’t really see what happened, but I saw people’s bodies flying,” Mary said. “The car hit me in the leg. I got a really deep laceration. It cut through to the bone. I fell onto the roof, and they backed up, at which point I rolled off the hood onto a sea of people. I saw blood, bloody noses, scrapes and bruises.”
“I realized there had been a car and that I had just been hit. I couldn’t breathe at all,” Mary said.
"I almost had the feeling of, ‘it's a bomb!’ because I could hear people screaming,” Caroline said. "I just saw people crashing into each other, and next thing I know I’m on the ground … And then I hear people shouting, it's backing up again."
Video of the incident shows the car ramming full-speed into the crowd, then driving away in reverse, when it almost hit Caroline a second time. A bystander pulled her out of the way, but she still suffered a concussion from the first strike.
“It was absolutely insane,” Caroline said. “It wasn't until later that I realized, someone was in that car, watching people fly over their windshields."
As many as 19 people were hurt in the crash. One 32-year-old woman was killed, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said. The car’s driver has been taken into custody, police said. The case is being investigated as a homicide, although police have yet to announce the suspect’s name.
As soon as she could stand, Mary fled as fast as she could to a side street where medics and Caroline found her. An ambulance took her to a hospital, where she received stitches for the bone-deep cut. In the waiting room, people gave hugs, made sure all the injured had a ride home, and distributed clementine oranges, she said.
Just miles from the racist rally, people were embracing strangers they had never met before, while Mary’s would-be killer was placed under arrest.
Mary said she believes the car’s driver wanted her dead.
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt this was not an accident,” Mary said. “They fully intended to hurt and maybe kill people.”