CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving white supremacy groups and counter-protesters, the father of the woman who was killed after the rally spoke out against hatred and offered a different message: forgiveness and love.
At the Wednesday memorial service for 32-year-old Heather Heyer, her father, Mark Heyer, shared, “She wanted equality, and in this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate. 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.”
On Monday, according to USA Today, he said: “I just think about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing. I include myself in that in forgiving the guy who did this.”
Heather was fatally hit by a car after the “Unite the Right” rally near the University of Virginia on Saturday. The rally drew white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, who were protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the park downtown.
Heather was among the group of counter-protesters who were standing against the rally, which also included various religious leaders and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Heather grew up near Charlottesville and was a paralegal at Miller Law Group. The law firm called Heather an “irreplaceable asset” and noted her “big heart for people.” She was known in her community for standing up for the marginalized in society.
“She was a strong woman who had passionate opinions about the equality of everyone, and she tried to stand up for that,” her father told the newspaper.
“With her, it wasn’t lip service. It was real … it was something that she wanted to share with everyone,” he continued, saying that “she had more courage than I did.”
Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, also noted her daughter’s passion for others, saying that “it was important to her to speak up for people who were not being heard.”
The driver of the car that hit Heather is 20-year-old James Alex Fields, who is now facing multiple charges, including a hit and run, second-degree murder and counts of malicious wounding. He drove his car into several other cars while crowds of people were crossing the street after the rally, injuring dozens of people. A total of 19 victims were hospitalized.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice issued a joint statement on Sunday, condemning the “evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”
They also prayed for Heather and two other victims who were Virginia State troopers, saying, “Let us especially remember those who lost their lives. Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression.”
While devastated with the loss of his daughter, Mark Heyer hopes that her death will cause bigger waves of change, according to USA Today. “I hope that her life and what has transpired changes people’s hearts.”
Her mother also shared similar sentiments at the Wednesday memorial.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” Bro said.
“I want you to pay attention, find what's wrong ... and say to yourself: What can I do to make a difference? And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I've got to give her up, we're going to make it count.”
Register staff added to this report.