She stood up to white nationalists and was severely hurt in the process. But the August attack in Charlottesville, Va., isn’t stopping Natalie Romero from standing up for what she believes in.
The Houston woman recently returned home to continue recovering from a skull fracture and injuries to her face.
“Everyday I have to look at the scar on my face. And I have to feel my lips and the stitches in my lip,” Romero said. “I am afraid of the revving of a car. The engine. It’s this new normal. I have to be like, ground yourself. It’s just a car. It’s just an American flag. It’s just red and white together. Those colors kind of freak me out now.”
When asked what the atmosphere in Charlottesville was like during the white nationalist rally, “It was so ugly! It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen," she said.
“Wow! In real life I saw Swastikas. I saw men saluting, like Nazis. I saw men with hammers. I saw all these things that in my life I thought that was over. In my life I thought I would never experience that," Romero said.
The 20-year old with Colombian roots was on a full scholarship to the University of Virginia. She graduated from Bellaire High School in 2016 where she was one of the highest-ranking JROTC members. Her story since the attack is serving as a beacon of hope for some many of her friends and strangers across the country.
People sent flowers, cards and care packages to her hospital room. Her former HISD EMERGE counselor flew to Virginia to be by Natalie’s bedside. More than $100,000 in donations poured into a GoFundME page and a new therapy dog named Luna is helping Natalie get through her hardest days.
“I definitely needed this. I needed to come home. I needed this for my recovery. I needed to see my family. I needed to see people I love. I needed to see my city,” said Romero of the months that followed the Charlottesville attack.
Romero said was powerful to watch Harvey flood Houston and then to watch neighbors unite, no matter their color or belief. She loved watching the Astros #EarnHistory by winning their first World Series.
The city she loves so much, capturing the fighting spirit that will see Natalie Romero through her latest challenge.