Droves of community members clothed in shades of purple poured into the Paramount Theater August 16 to remember Heather Heyer, a local activist and paralegal who lost her life to what some have called an act of domestic terror the weekend before.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her,” said her mother, Susan Bro. The crowd of hundreds erupted in applause and sharp whistles as nearly every person stood in support.
Heather was killed August 12 when a participant of the alt-right’s infamous Unite the Right rally plowed into a crowd of peacefully protesting pedestrians on the Downtown Mall with his Dodge Challenger.
“I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I have to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” Bro said and encouraged those in attendance to notice the injustices going on around them and stand up for those who need it, just like Heyer always did.
Also among the list of speakers were her grandfather, Elwood Shrader, her father, Mark Heyer, her pastor, cousins, friends and co-workers.
All spoke about how the fiery 32-year-old was filled with love and passion, but never backed down from an argument.
“She wanted to put down hate. …She could tell if somebody wasn’t being straight and she’d call you on it,” her father said.
“It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, if she loved you, that was it,” he added. “You were stuck.”
Diana Ratcliffe remembered Heyer’s infections smile and eyes that glittered. She read a letter she wrote to her “baby cousin” in the aftermath. “Did I tell you that you come from a long line of stubborn and passionate women?” she said. “Your patience was heroic,” and she, too, said Heyer never gave up on people.
Her coworkers echoed the same sentiments, and said Heyer treated her clients at the Miller Law Group—many of whom have shared their condolences—with the utmost care.
“She cared about everyone she spoke to,” said Alfred Wilson, her supervisor, and she always stood her ground. He remembered a time the two were leaving the office one evening and her boyfriend was outside waiting for her. “You didn’t tell me you worked for a black man,” her boyfriend said. Heyer, unsurprisingly, broke things off after that.
“Everyone who knows her knows that she cursed like a sailor sometimes,” said co-worker and close friend Freda Khateeb-Wilson, and the audience laughed while she recounted Heyer’s everyday battles with the office printer.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and Senator Tim Kaine sat in the front row next to Heyer’s family. Both were quick to give their condolences and denounce the white nationalist rally that thrust Charlottesville into the national spotlight and brought the community face to face with hate.
“Maybe if you didn’t stand up, or if you didn’t talk so loudly, or if you weren’t so bold, they wouldn’t have heard you and you’d still be here,” Khateeb-Wilson said. “Thank you for making the word hate real, but thank you for making the word love stronger.”