As the bells rang the noon hour on Thursday, several passers-by stopped on the University of Virginia Grounds not far from the University Chapel.
They bowed their heads and solemnly stood for a moment of silence, and remained as the bells tolled again, more slowly this time, for an additional two minutes.
The occasion marked the fifth anniversary of the notorious “Unite the Right” rally of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, when white supremacists marched on the University and downtown Charlottesville. The events left three people dead, and many more suffered physical and psychological harm.
Nichole Flores, a UVA associate professor of religious studies, stood not far from the chapel door, her hands clasped in prayer.
“I thought it was important to remember the Charlottesville friends who witnessed the violence and chaos that day,” she said after the carillon stopped. “I wanted to acknowledge their journey over the past five years, their trauma and suffering, and even legal challenges related to those events.”
She said it’s important to be mindful that the “hard work” of seeking justice continues as community members devote efforts “to help this city become a more just and loving place.”
Jody Kielbasa, the University’s vice provost for the arts, walked across University Avenue from his office and said he wanted to be at the chapel to reflect and pay his respects for those who suffered.
The events were “terrible and tragic – for the University, Charlottesville, the community and the nation,” he said.
He noted that the UVA community has responded in many positive ways over the past five years, adding that UVA Arts helped to support the downtown exhibit of photojournalist (and University Library employee) Ézé Amos, for example. There is still much work to be done, he said.
Nearby, UVA President Jim Ryan and other UVA leaders and staff members stood on the steps of Madison Hall to participate in the commemoration.
Ryan was just days into his presidency on the first anniversary of the march. This morning, Ryan again addressed the University community, but in a letter, writing: “We cannot, and should not, forget those dark days five years ago. My hope is that the memory of those events, including the heroic and compassionate responses of community members, continues to inspire us to work to make the world a better and more welcoming place.”
Find other events related to commemorating August 2017.