During a ceremony on Wednesday honoring Heather Heyer – the 32-year-old who was killed Saturday after being struck by a car during a counter-protest against white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia – the victim’s mother, Susan Bro, delivered a poignant speech about her daughter’s conviction for battling injustice.
“I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable,” Bro said. “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.”
Over seven minutes, Bro alternated between wistful remembrances (Heyer’s many dinner table debates) and passionate pleas to carry her daughter’s legacy for social justice forward. “My child’s famous Facebook post was, ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,'” she said. “[Heyer] paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention.
“Here’s what I want to happen,” she continued. “You ask me, ‘What can I do?’ So many people … I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy – this is not the end of Heather’s legacy. You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. ‘What is there I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see?’ … You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.”
Bro concluded by emphasizing the power of respectful “conversations” – of finding ways to disagree without hatred or violence. “Find what’s wrong. Don’t ignore it, don’t look the other way,” she said. “You make a point to look at it 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 gotta give her up, we’re going to make it count.”
On Monday, one day after Heyer’s death, NBC News tweeted a statement from Bro thanking President Trump for “denouncing those who promote violence and hatred.” But she changed her tone in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, saying, “I was so tired I don’t remember saying something nice or derogatory about him.”
After initially casting blame for the violence in Virginia on “both sides” (the white supremacists and counter-protestors), Trump has twice shifted his response. On Monday, the president condemned the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, but the following day he reverted to the “blame on both sides” argument, even criticizing members of the “alt-left.”
Mark Heyer, Heather’s father, recently told Florida Today that he’s forgiven James Alex Fields Jr., the alleged driver of the car which crashed into the crowd of protestors, ultimately killing his daughter. (Fields has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run.)
“People need to stop hating, and they need to forgive each other,” Mark Heyer said. “And I include myself in that, in forgiving the guy that did this. He doesn’t know no better. You know, I just think of what the Lord said on the cross. Lord forgive him, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Watch below: Protest – with people waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans – turned violent, prompting Virginia governor to declare state of emergency.