Charlottesville Survivor Says She'll March Against White Supremacy Again - NBC4 Washington

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Charlottesville Survivor Says She'll March Against White Supremacy Again

Lisa was gravely injured when James Fields Jr. allegedly drove a car into a group of people protesting a white supremacist rally

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Charlottesville Survivor Shares Her Story

    "There was all this chaos going on around me, but there was nothing I could do," said Lisa, remembering when a driver slammed into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville last year. News4's Julie Carey shares her remarkable story of recovery and return to activism. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018)

    Lisa was seriously injured when a driver slammed into a group of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

    Her forehead was cut, jaw knocked out of alignment, hand badly broken. Both of her legs were broken, too.

    But nearly one year and many physical therapy sessions later, she's ready to march again. On Sunday, Lisa plans to demonstrate against the second "Unite the Right" rally in Washington, D.C.

    Lisa is a longtime animal rights activist who had protested on that issue many times. On Aug. 12, 2017, she decided to join demonstrators countering white supremacists, shifting her fight to human rights.

    "I wanted to go and stand up against people who are violent and oppressive," she said. Lisa linked up with a group from D.C. and marched with them.

    She says she stuck close to the group and avoided the violent clashes that broke out. 

    By the time she turned onto 4th Street in Charlottesville, she thought the threat had passed. Then, she saw a car on a street that she says should have been closed to drivers.

    James Fields Jr. hit the gas on his Dodge, driving directly toward a group of people demonstrating against white nationalists, prosecutors say.

    "I had heard screaming that sounded different from the rest of the day," she remembered. As she thought to run, she heard another different sound.

    "That was him hitting bodies," she said. Dozens were injured and 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed.

    Lisa was sent spinning through the air and felt like she was getting swept up in a tornado. A Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph caught her legs extended straight up into the air.

    Lisa landed on another car and fell to the ground.

    "I felt very calm," she recounted. "There was all this chaos going on around me, and there was nothing I could do but lay there."

    A pediatrician from Richmond, Virginia, rushed to her side while they awaited emergency responders. At the hospital, Lisa was subjected to a flurry of X-rays and scans that revealed the extent of her injures. Doctors put plates and screws in her legs. A few days later, they operated on her hand.

    The pain was excruciating at times, Lisa says, and she carried a powerful fear with her.

    "The first night when I tried to fall asleep, I woke up terrified the Nazis were going to try to kill me," she said. "They put a guard on my door."

    But alongside the fear and pain came an outpouring of support that helped her through six weeks of in-patient rehab.

    "I can do most things now," she said. "I can't dance yet. I'd like to dance, but I can now do hikes."

    Daily physical therapy sessions have been part of Lisa's life since that day, but her insurance only covered a small fraction of the expensive but necessary treatments.

    Fortunately, the Heal Charlottesville Fund stepped in to help her cover the rest.

    Lisa asked News4 to conceal her identity because she remains fearful that white supremacists will threaten or harass her. But she follows Fields' trial in the news and says she was glad to hear he faces a federal hate crime charge.

    And she's not letting fear stop her from standing up against white supremacists as they converge on the nation's capital.

    "I think we should keep focusing on the people out there who still feel the way [Fields] does," Lisa said.

    That is why on Sunday — the anniversary of Heyer's death and Lisa's grave injuries — Lisa says she will travel to D.C. to peacefully protest the second "Unite the Right" rally.

    "I want to see a show of force of love," she said. "I think the important thing is to fight injustice wherever we are called to do it."

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