CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — With tires screeching and bodies flying, Marcus Martin shoved his fiancee out of the way of a car charging through a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Marcus Martin was promptly hit and upended by the car as it plowed through the crowd. Flat on his back with a broken leg, he says he experienced several minutes of terror.
"The only thing running through my mind was: please don't let her be dead," Martin, 26, told The Associated Press in an interview. "Please don't let her be dead."
Marissa Blair was OK, and Martin's body was captured in a photograph as he tumbled over the crashing car that fatally hit Heather Heyer, a friend who had been marching with Blair and Martin. Nineteen others were injured.
Martin's mother, Kimberly Martin, was terrified as she watched the scene replayed on television.
"I'm thanking God, because after seeing that photo and then I'm seeing videos and I'm seeing my son behind this car and then when I see the car backing back up the street, it was nobody but God that got him out of the way, you know? And it was just a cruel, cruel, act because those peaceful people: it was like going to a battleground without any protection from anybody," she said.
While her son survived, Kimberly Martin said she's pained by Heyer's death.
"As a mother it hurts, you know, because I could have lost my child, but somebody else did and, like I said, it just hurts," she said.
James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man who was said to idolize Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in high school, has been charged with second-degree murder in Heyer's death. Authorities say he drove into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally on Saturday after the crowd had moved from a nearby park to downtown. Fields has been held without bail.
Blair said she has never had a close friend pass away. She saw Heyer every day at work at a local law firm and on weekends. They had met up in Charlottesville on Saturday to march as counter-protesters against participants in the white nationalist rally. Even when distraught by her death, she brightens at the thought of Heyer, who was 32.
"I just smile when I think about Heather," Blair said Sunday night after attending a vigil at the spot of the crash now covered with flowers. "She always spoke with so much conviction and she stood up for what she believed in, and she liked to make you laugh and she didn't care what she said. It was Heather. She cared about people. She wanted the best for everyone. She stood up for equality. She didn't want hate. She just wanted everybody to be equal."
Blair said the crash was an "act of terror," a hate crime that she believes should be treated as such.
"The group that was here, the alt right, the neo-Nazis, they stood for hate, and he knew what he was doing. It was a deliberate act," Blair said.
Martin said he attended the march in a peaceful response to the white nationalist rally, at a time when he is focusing on turning his life around. He pleaded guilty to robbery in 2013 and was released last summer in July. He said in an interview he is a "100-percent" different person.Comment on this story
Martin, who may have surgery this week on his ankle, said the crash shouldn't have happened. He doesn't think the white nationalist rally should have been allowed near the city. Other cities should consider what happened in Charlottesville before allowing similar rallies, he said.
A total of three people died as a result of Saturday's violent protests. As the violence of that day's rally waned, a state police helicopter deployed in a large-scale police response to the violence crashed outside the city. Both troopers on board, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, were killed. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
"Is not one life enough?" Martin said. "Do you need more of that?"