Today marks the fourth anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville – the day that our community was thrust into a spotlight we never wanted to be in. Four years later we still see images of the events of August 12, 2017 used in national and world news as illustrations of hatred and racism. For Jaunt, that date, and the one-year anniversary in 2018, were opportunities to demonstrate our dedication and commitment to the community. Looking back, we realize our service pivoted in ways we could never have imagined.
As the intel about expected activities in 2017 became more available, Jaunt management connected with community emergency managers. We were linked to VEOCI, the virtual emergency operations center, attended training on the software, and carefully monitored the system throughout the days.
“We don’t just show up when it’s easy. Everyone stepped up and worked as a team – dispatch, drivers, and management – a testament to our promise to our mission and the community,” said Interim CEO, Karen Davis. “I’m so proud of the cooperative spirit that the Jaunt team exhibited on those incredibly difficult days.”
In the days before August 12, Jaunt reservations and scheduling teams contacted our clients who were scheduled to be in and around downtown Charlottesville to offer an opportunity to reschedule their trips to a safer date and time. In many cases, these phone calls were the first our clients heard of the impending rally.
Jaunt engaged with staff scheduled to drive that day to gauge their comfort level and assure them that if they would prefer not to drive, that would be understood and accommodated. We were extremely sensitive to the impact a rally of white supremacists would have on our staff’s emotional well-being and sense of safety. Only one driver opted not to work that day, reaffirming Jaunt’s commitment at all levels of the organization to those we serve.
On the day of the rally, we set up a command center in our conference room. We monitored local and national news outlets for real-time understanding of how events were unfolding so we could adjust routes as necessary, watching with horror as Charlottesville made the national news with headlines of violence and bigotry.
In contrast to those headlines, the Charlottesville community rose to the occasion. Rescue workers and volunteers tended to injuries. People from all over joined in peaceful opposition to the messages of the rally. And Jaunt drivers worked tirelessly to help shepherd people safely through our troubled city to and from critically necessary trips like employment and dialysis. In a few instances, we were able to come to the rescue of people who would have been otherwise stranded.
J’riah Guerrero, Director of Transit Logistics, is a Marine veteran. For him, a peacekeeper at heart, watching from the sidelines was difficult. “I wanted to be there. Not in a fighting capacity, but to protect. That’s what Marines do.” But he found relief knowing that he was still helping the community by providing transportation and helping people who wanted to get away from the demonstrations.
On the one-year anniversary in 2018, Jaunt showed up for the community again, providing transportation for emergency response crews stationed at JPJ, bringing them to various staging areas throughout town during the days and nights of August 12 – 13.
We look back on these efforts with a sense of somber pride. We were dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of our community then and remain so today. Inclusivity has always been at the heart of our service but it takes on new significance in the shadow of our shared experiences from August 12. Today we will hold space to remember what happened on the events of August 12, 2017, show gratitude for the ways in which we continue to support each another and our community, and consider what we can do moving forward to advance a culture of equity and inclusion.