Nina Rose, 20, and her mother, were driving home to Rochester, N.Y., when they encountered the pileup.
"With so much fog we didn't see much around it," Rose told the Roanoke newspaper. "As we got further up we just saw a bunch of people standing on the median, just with their kids and families all together. There were cars smashed into other cars, and cars just underneath other semi-trucks."
Darrell Utt, 17, of Moore County, N.C., was stuck in the northbound lanes for about three hours as he traveled to Huntington, W. Va.
"It was really foggy at first," he said. "We probably saw over 50 tow trucks. We saw about five cars come down and three semi-trucks. One of them, it didn't even look like a car, it looked like a chunk of metal."
Utt said motorists were calm, despite the traffic jam.
"There was no road rage or anything, everyone understood the severity of how bad this was before we even began to figure out what exactly happened," he said.
Authorities reopened the northbound lanes Sunday night and hoped to have the other side cleared later in the evening.
Police did not immediately release the names of those killed.