Heather Heyer’s mother: ‘Let’s channel anger into righteous action’

Posted at 1:03 PM, Aug 16, 2017

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Eight speakers addressed the 2,800 people who gathered early to get inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville for Heather Heyer’s public memorial.

The service began with a testament of her character: She was, a family friend said, "a young woman who lost her life defending the rights of others."

"I would like for us to carry her legacy on by doing the same thing: Respecting the rights of everyone," Cathy Brinkley said about the 32-year-old killed Saturday when a car hit her and other counterprotesters who opposed a "Unite the Right" rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Relatives, friends and dignitaries, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and US Sen. Tim Kaine, were among those who gathered Wednesday in Charlottesville's roughly 1,000-seat Paramount Theater.

Heather's father, Mark Heyer, choked up as he spoke of his daughter.

"She wanted equality, and in this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate," Heyer said. "And for my part, we just need to stop all this stuff and just forgive each other. I think that's what the Lord would want us to do."

The racial diversity of those in the auditorium, he said, reflected Heather's embrace of people of all colors.

"It didn't matter who you were or where you from," Mark Heyer said. "If she loved you, that was it -- you were stuck. For that, I'm truly proud of my daughter."

Many wore purple -- a color she loved.

"Purple is a symbol of openness -- It basically lets other people know, 'I'm willing to work with you.' That's something that Heather was," friend and co-worker Alfred Wilson told CNN's "New Day" before the gathering.

"She was a person that was willing to work with anyone," Wilson, wearing a suit and a purple bow tie, said. "She was a very kind, generous person, and someone that actually was very opinionated and spoke up for what she believed was right."

Wilson, who hired Heyer as a paralegal at the Charlottesville-based Miller Law Group, said the firm had received an outpouring of letters from their clients.

He read excerpts before the crowd.

“She in my eyes is a hero. Hopefully, all this madness can stop.”

“Tonight my heart sunk and tears flowed.” “An act of terrorism took Heather home.”

Wilson concluded with a call to action: to take the time to reach out your hand to somebody you don’t know, in the next few days.

He said he was at the drive through, thinking of Heather, and he paid for the meal of the person behind him.

“Do something as simple as buying lunch for the person behind you.”

Don’t let it be in vain, mother says

Heyer’s mother Susan Bro said her daughter’s favorite quote was “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

She told of dinners full of conversation and Facebook posts encouraging dialogue to hash out differences of opinion.

“Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person – so are a lot of you,” she said. “A lot of you go that extra mile.”

“I think what has happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did was achievable – we don’t all have to die, we don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up – well guess what, you just magnified her.”

She called on the audience, who gave her a standing ovation twice, to channel their differences, their anger, into righteous anger.

"I want this to spread, I don't want this to die," she said. "This is just the beginning to Heather's legacy."

“You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability," she urged. "Find a way to make a difference."

"That’s how you’re going to make the death of my child count,” she said.

Friend: She was afraid protesters would be violent

Heyer had told co-workers Friday that she was going to be among the counter-protesters rallying against the "Unite the Right" groups.

She was nervous about going but felt she needed to be among the counter-protesters to stand up what she believed in, her co-worker and friend Victoria Jackson told CNN.

One of the last conversations they had before each left for the weekend was about the rally.

"Heather said, 'I want to go so badly but I don't want to get shot. I don't want to die,' " Jackson remembered Heyer saying.

Heyer was afraid of the protesters because she believed they were not here for peace, her co-worker said.

Jackson held back tears as she talked about her friend, whose work station is now surrounded by flowers and messages from clients and friends. The scent of roses filled the air.

On her work desk are purple sticky notes, purple cover sheets and a pair of plastic purple hands in a thumbs-up position that used to hold her cellphone in place.

Each employee at the law firm received a pen Tuesday with a note that read: "Although her desk sits empty today, we will never forget how much she impacted our lives. Her presence will forever be remembered."

'All she wants is equality for everyone'

"She was an outspoken, outgoing, determined and passionate individual and had a special regard for social injustices and especially those concerning race relations," the venue holding the memorial said in a news release.

Heyer's family and friends said she dedicated her life to standing up for those she felt were not being heard.

"If you knew Heather, you would know that she loves everyone and all she wants is equality for everyone, no matter who you love, no matter what color you are," said close friend and co-worker Marissa Blair, who was with Heyer when she was killed.

As a paralegal, Heyer assisted clients through the bankruptcy filing process.

She ate lunch at her desk because she was dedicated to the needs of her clients, Jackson said, adding that Heyer usually ordered Jimmy John's sandwiches.

She had just celebrated her five-year anniversary with the firm last week. Her boss, Larry Miller, said they went out for lunch for the occasion and remembers telling her that she was a lot better than she gave herself credit for. Miller describes Heyer as precise with her work, witty and like family.

He said he told her Friday, "Have a good weekend. Be careful."



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