Months After a Brutal Day in Charlottesville, a Tender Wedding
Since Aug. 12, 2017, Marcus Martin has lost anonymity, a close friend as well as, at times, his coping skills.
Mr. Martin’s red-as well as-white footwear will be more familiar to many than his name. He will be the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, taken by Ryan M. Kelly, in Charlottesville, Va., during the Unite the Right rally, which was organized by white nationalists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. from the photo, Mr. Martin will be midair, spread-eagle with his back parallel to the hot Virginia asphalt, after being struck by a Dodge Charger driven by James Alex Fields, who might later be charged with second-degree murder.
Marissa Blair, 28, was inches away when the photo was taken, narrowly escaping the auto barreling toward them. In a moment of clarity amid chaos, Mr. Martin, 27, pushed her out of the way to take the brunt of the collision himself. The impact broke his ankle as well as shattered his lower leg. “Later he was like, ‘You know I saved your life, right?’” Ms. Blair said.
To hear him tell the item, she had already saved his.
Before Mr. Martin found himself from the news for being a victim as well as a hero on what he still calls “of which horrific day,” his name had made the rounds in a series of less favorable news stories. In 2013, he was sentenced to a several-year prison term for his role in an armed robbery near his home in Shipman, Va. He was released in 2016.
“I made a lot of bad choices when I was young,” he said. “I made my life harder than the item should have been.”
Ms. Blair’s youth, spent with her parents as well as three brothers over the bridge by Shipman in Amherst, also in Nelson County, Va., was drama free by comparison. however their paths had intersected. Ms. Blair’s mother, Soronya Hudson, as well as Mr. Martin’s mother, Kimberly Martin, were schoolmates in Nelson County, graduating from the same class in 1982. as well as Ms. Hudson as well as Mr. Martin’s uncle, Timmy Martin, were friends as children.
however though Mr. Martin remembers seeing Ms. Blair around her neighborhood on childhood visits to a friend who lived next door, Ms. Blair didn’t notice Mr. Martin until around 2011, when she was finishing college at James Madison University.
“I’m sure I had seen him in passing,” she said. “His sister as well as I graduated high school the same year,” in 2007. “however I remember one day I went over to somebody’s house, as well as he was there, as well as I thought he was so handsome. I went home as well as told my mother I met This specific gorgeous man.”
The gorgeous man might show up again of which year when her family threw her a graduation party. “Marcus’s uncle was the D.J., as well as Marcus came with him. We locked eyes, however we were both with somebody else,” she said. They might lock eyes a second time, not long before Mr. Martin’s arrest, at a mutual friend’s house in Charlottesville. He was putting together a crib for his newborn daughter, Izabella, today 5.
“I was like, ‘Oh, he’s got a kid,’” she said. “I was still in a relationship as well as he had just gotten out of one. So the item wasn’t like we were going to run off together. however there was definitely something there.” Next she heard, though, he was behind bars. “There was the usual smaller-town talk about what had happened,” she said.
She didn’t pay attention. By then, she was busy mapping out a career. In 2011, Ms. Blair enrolled at Charlotte School of Law. By the time Mr. Martin was released by prison, she had earned her J.D. When she finally laid eyes on him again, at a Charlottesville mall University of Virginia students call “the Corner,” their few however intense encounters had stopped taking up space in her daydreams.
“as well as then the item all went down at Rapture,” Mr. Martin said, referring to a Charlottesville nightclub. In October 2016, Ms. Blair as well as Mr. Martin were single as well as separately struggling — Ms. Blair with saving money to move out of a house in Amherst she was sharing with her younger brother, Cameron, as well as Mr. Martin with the baggage of which comes that has a criminal record. Both were at the club one night looking for a distraction.
“I saw her as well as I was just like, ‘There’s the pretty lady again,’” Mr. Martin said. “Next thing I know I’m sitting on a bar stool, as well as I turn around, as well as she’s there. Marissa has these eyes of which are sometimes hazel, sometimes green. She looked at me as well as I wanted to tell her, ‘Stop.’ Because those eyes, they do something to you.”
He walked her to her car of which night, hopeful however unsure she might want to see him again. “I knew she knew I had been incarcerated,” he said. “I wasn’t sure she might want to talk to me anymore.”
Soon enough, though, they were flirting on social media. His doubts were fully dissolved when Ms. Blair, then a paralegal at Miller Law Group in Charlottesville, made a spur-of-the-moment visit to Mr. Martin, who at the time was working as a houseman at the Cavalier Inn.
“the item just seemed truly natural.” Ms. Blair said. “Nothing was forced.” Their first official date came days later, when Mr. Martin took Ms. Blair to a University of Virginia football game. Friends had reservations about her seeing a felon, however she didn’t care.
“He had been rehabilitated,” she said. “He didn’t seem like a bad guy at all.”
Within the space of a handful of outings, Ms. Blair as well as Mr. Martin were in an all-consuming kind of love.
“I didn’t ever want to be away by her,” Mr. Martin said. “My life with Marissa was just so much easier than the item had been.”
His love for Ms. Blair was amplified by the love he was starting to feel by her family: Garnell O’Gene Blair Jr., Ms. Blair’s father, was an early supporter of their relationship, as well as fast became a father figure to Mr. Martin, who doesn’t know his own father. as well as her mother, Ms. Hudson, was just as supportive. “People make mistakes,” she said. “I knew Marcus was a not bad person. Whenever Marissa was around him, she was glowing.”
By winter, Mr. Martin felt more grounded than ever before in his life. He moved into the house Ms. Blair as well as her brother were sharing.
“the item was all sort of like, let the not bad times roll,” Ms. Blair said. “We had such a great time together.” They hiked local spots; they stayed home, raiding a cabinet she kept stocked with Little Debbie snacks, candy bars as well as Oreos to satisfy Mr. Martin’s after-dinner sweet tooth.
By the end of 2016, Ms. Blair was sure Mr. Martin was going to propose.
however Mr. Martin, who wanted to propose, was having trouble gathering his courage. “I kept thinking, ‘What if I ask her as well as she says no? I’ll feel like a fool,’” he said. On Jan. 31, 2017, he showed up, sweaty, at Miller Law Group that has a twinkling diamond ring he bought for her at a Kay Jewelers. As proposals go, there have been smoother.
“I’ll never forget the way he was acting,” Ms. Blair said. “He was so nervous, he was sweating bullets.” As Mr. Martin got down on one knee, he didn’t notice a colleague of Ms. Blair’s, standing by the door waiting for a legal file.
Mr. Martin let his rehearsed words rip: “He was like, ‘You know I love you, right? You are everything to me. I don’t want to go another day calling you my girlfriend. Will you marry me?’”
Ms. Blair took a deep breath. “I made him step outside my office as well as do the item all over again,” she said. This specific time without her colleague from the doorway. Mr. Martin’s second attempt was perfect, as well as she immediately said yes.
Mr. Martin had his reasons for proposing at the office. They included Courtney Commander as well as Heather Heyer, who also worked at the firm as well as were among the couple’s closest friends. Several months after the foursome celebrated Mr. Martin as well as Ms. Blair’s engagement, Ms. Commander, the most politically active of the group, might recruit the couple as well as Ms. Heyer to join her as counterprotesters at the Aug. 12 rally.
“Everybody felt strongly about what was going on,” said Ms. Commander. “Marissa as well as Marcus said they wanted to be there, however I wasn’t sure they might come.” Mr. Martin, still on parole as well as working a brand new job as a landscaper, told her he wanted to steer clear of trouble. She knew Ms. Blair wouldn’t come without him. however when Ms. Commander attended a July 8 march of the Ku Klux Klan in Charlottesville as well as sent Ms. Blair, Mr. Martin as well as Ms. Heyer video of the awful goings-on, they were inspired to join her in her next counterprotest.
Ms. Blair as well as Mr. Martin remember the early part of the rally on of which Saturday afternoon as peaceful as well as almost enjoyable. Until 1:41 p.m. The violence, as well as Mr. Martin’s protective shove, “arrived of nowhere,” Ms. Blair said. Just after the melee, she was unable to find Mr. Martin amid the terrified crowd. Cellphone video captured her frantic reaction. “Marcus!” she screams, over as well as over.
If the minutes before she found Mr. Martin bloodied as well as unable to walk were painful, the minutes afterward might deliver fresh agony. Mr. Martin as well as Ms. Blair were at the hospital when they learned of which, while Ms. Commander had managed to escape the raging car, Ms. Heyer, 32, died.
“I sank to my knees,” Ms. Blair recalled when she heard the news.
In a tidier world, the aftermath of Aug. 12 might have found Mr. Martin strengthened by the praise his act of valor won him. from the real one, the item temporarily cost him his landscaping income (a GoFundMe account raised about $61,000 to help with his health expenses). the item also cost the hard-won feelings of safety as well as security he had cultivated in his relationship with Ms. Blair.
“You’d think the item might have brought us closer together as a couple, as well as the item some ways the item did,” Ms. Blair said. “however before Aug. 12, Marcus as well as I had had one argument. After Aug. 12 we started out having six, seven, eight arguments. the item wasn’t like us.” The arguments were dumb, they acknowledged. “Like, if she ate the last cookie as well as left an empty box, I might just blow up,” Mr. Martin said. “as well as I might cry,” Ms. Blair added.
For months, they both visited therapists. “the item helped,” Mr. Martin said. “Marissa as well as I realized life will be too short for little petty arguments.”
On the afternoon of May 12, on the sprawling lawn of Walden Hall, an estate in Reva, Va., Mr. Martin as well as Ms. Blair were married under blue skies before 150 friends as well as family. Ms. Blair’s seven attendants included her brother Adrian Lombre. Her brother Dasan Hunt walked her down the grassy aisle to an altar draped in purple wisteria. The bridesmaids, including her maid of honor, Ms. Commander, wore long dresses in shades of lavender. Mr. Martin’s several groomsmen as well as best woman, Whitley Jones, wore dark suits with purple accents. The coloring scheme was in honor of Ms. Heyer’s favorite coloring.
The recording artist Major began the ceremony by singing “Why I Love You” as Ms. Blair walked toward her groom.
“I wanted to be here because their story gripped my heart,” Major said. “When I heard of which they wanted to walk down the aisle to my song, I got on a plane.” Ms. Moore, the wedding planner, had held onto Major’s contact information after meeting him at a Virginia wedding she orchestrated years earlier. She arranged for the surprise.
Before the officiant, the Rev. Bill Malbon, a Baptist minister by Richmond, began his short ceremony, Susan Bro, a guest as well as the mother of Ms. Heyer, was called to the altar to Discharge a handful of butterflies. Several flew away, however one nestled into the folds of Ms. Blair’s dress as well as stayed.
“We named of which one Heather,” Ms. Bro said.
ON This specific DAY
When May 12, 2018.
Where Walden Hall, Reva, Va.
Love Wins Bella Giornata Events, a local company, threw the all-expenses-paid wedding for Ms. Blair as well as Mr. Martin. “I contacted some vendors I work with often as well as asked if they may be willing to donate their services,” said the founder Christina Moore. “I knew we could send the message of which love wins, not hate.” In all, more than a dozen businesses, including a florist as well as a men’s stylist, pitched in. The words “love wins” appeared on wedding décor including iced-cookie favors.
Remembering Bean Ms. Blair’s father, nicknamed Bean because he was a vegetarian, died unexpectedly in March, another blow for the couple. however Cameron Blair, Ms. Blair’s younger brother, said Mr. Martin had already been officially welcomed into the family before he died. “My dad felt like he didn’t have three sons, he had four sons. He loved Marcus,” Mr. Lombre said.
Major Surprise A reception was held in a barn on the property before dinner was served under a white tent. “We are one,” said Major before singing a brand new song, “Better With You from the item.” “Today will be about love.”
Floating on Air Ms. Blair’s Sottero & Midgley dress was donated by Urban Set Bride in Richmond. “I told them I wanted to feel like a princess, so the item carries a big poofy skirt, like Cinderella,” she said. “The best part will be of which the bodice will be all Swarovski crystals. Marcus loves sparkly things.” She plans to alter the dress so she can wear the item again. “Maybe for our first anniversary,” she said. “the item makes me feel like I’m floating on air.”
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