In the most devastating blow of the Unite the Right rally, a local activist and paralegal lost her life to a white supremacist in a Dodge Challenger. Heather Heyer, 32, is remembered by many as sweet and funny with impeccable wit.
“She always had a very strong sense of right and wrong. She always, even as a child, was very caught up in what she believed to be fair,” Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, tells NPR. “Somehow, I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change.”
Heyer’s profile picture on Facebook appears next to a banner that says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and friends say she was quick to denounce any injustice.
She grew up in Ruckersville, was a graduate of William Monroe High School and attended Piedmont Virginia Community College in 2007. Heyer worked as a paralegal with the Miller Law Group, and also at Cafe Caturra.
“She was really caring about people,” says Larry Miller, her boss at the law firm. “We just celebrated five years of her working here. It was a struggle to get her to take time off because she knew people needed her here.”
Miller also describes Heyer as “humble” because “she didn’t know she was as good as she was.” He recently took her to lunch to celebrate her anniversary and told her how happy he was she was part of the firm’s family. “She cried,” he says.
“It’s been really tough coming into the office because her chair hasn’t been touched, her desk hasn’t been touched,” says Miller. “It’s been devastating.”
As Charlottesville grieves, many have lit candles and laid flowers and keepsakes on Fourth Street, in the spot where Heyer and many others were peacefully assembling when hit by the car.
A sign that lies on the road reads, “Yesterday, my baby son took his first steps. Yesterday, as our sweet town was brought to its knees, a new generation found its feet. We will teach him to walk the right path, and to always stand for what is right. Just as these brave souls who were injured and killed standing up for what’s right. We will teach him that love always wins.”
Bro told HuffPost that she wants her daughter’s death “to be a rallying cry for justice.”
At a press conference August 14, Chief Al Thomas said Fourth Street would remain closed indefinitely. “It was a tragic, tragic day,” he said.
“I think she’d be shocked to know we’re hearing from all over the world,” says Miller. “Some say she’s become the face of this whole thing.”
A memorial for Heyer will be held at 11am August 16 at the Paramount Theater.