August 11th and 12th of 2017 will forever be known in Charlottesville as the days the white supremacists came to town. I was about to begin my senior year of high school and start applying to colleges in the fall. Even though this was supposed to be an exciting time, the rest of my childhood spent in Charlottesville was forever changed by a white supremacist rally. This was the summer that changed Charlottesville's culture to the divisive, intensive narrative that it is still trying to heal from.
Before August 11th and 12th, life in Charlottesville was very different. It was not the hateful, problematic town full of rage that was portrayed by the media and ever so ingrained in our minds. We were not told how to feel and did not pity against one another based on what we heard and interpreted from the awful events of August 11th and 12th.
Life before this fateful weekend was probably as peaceful in Charlottesville as I will ever remember it. It was life before a statue divided us that was placed in Emancipation Park so long ago. It was before city council meeting became a shouting match and a fight to have your voice heard. It was life before the disrespect that plagued the city.
Even a year after the the white supremacist rally, fear was still present. There was a slight fear that August 11th and 12th, 2017 would happen again but also a slow resilience that Charlottesville had the opportunity and was going to change the narrative from fear to hope and reflection. A year after the white supremacist rally on August 12th, people began to walk the downtown mall freely as if the Nazi's and KKK members never came. People finally have stopped screaming and shouting at city council meetings and have learned to stay peaceful and listen for the better.
In 2018 and 2019, I love Charlottesville posters fill local businesses and stores on the Downtown Mall. Fourth street was closed and renamed Heather Heyer Way along with a memorial in her honor made with flowers, purple Heather signs, and chalk designs.
This year will mark two years since August 11th and 12th. News stories to mark the two year anniversary is expected along with the identity that Charlottesville has adopted today. We've made progress but it is still one small step to improving the way our Charlottesville culture respects each other and how we address the statues that make racial tensions rise. The Robert E Lee statue continues to be vandalized and seems like there is no end in sight. We've acknowledged our problematic culture but are still working on what the solution is and how to build a better Charlottesville for the future generations that grow up here.
In the past week James Fields' sentencing is complete with state and federal charges. He will spend the rest of his life in prison and is the last chapter of August 12th that has come to a close.
Coming back to Charlottesville after a year of college has been interesting to see how the city culture has transitioned and where we will be a year from now or ten years into the future.
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