Heather Heyer dedicated her life to standing up for those she felt were not being heard, her parents and friends say. She died fighting for her beliefs and campaigning against hate.
“Heather, her entire life, has been passionate about justice for everyone and fairness and fair treatment and you better be able to explain to her why something was true and not true and why it had to be that way,” her mother Susan Bro told MSNBC on Sunday.
“It was important to her to speak up for people that she felt were not being heard, to speak up when injustices were happening and she saw in the lives of many of her African-American friends particularly and her gay friends that equal rights were not being given.”
Thirty-two-year-old Heyer was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters gathered to oppose a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups.
Nineteen others were injured in the horrific incident.
A 20-year-old man from Ohio, James Alex Fields Jr., is being held and could face a second-degree murder charge in Heyer’s death.
Heather’s father Mark Heyer said his daughter had strong convictions and was passionate about helping people.
“She died trying to bring about that purpose,” he told CNN on Sunday.
“She was always passionate about the beliefs she held, she had a bigger backbone than I did,” he said.
‘We were against hate’
Heather’s close friend Marissa Blair said she was at Saturday’s rally with Heather and fiance Marcus Martin in a show of support for diversity.
“We were against hate, that’s what we were against, ” Blair told Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday. Blair wore a purple T-shirt with a picture of Heather and the words: “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.”
“This is our city. We work here. We live here. And we didn’t want neo-Nazis and alt-right and racists to come into our city and think they could spread freely their hate, and their bigotry and their racism. We wanted to let them know that we were about love, that we were would overpower them … We were peacefully protesting and we were just standing up for what we believe in… And that’s what Heather stood for. That’s why she was out there, that’s why we were out there.”
Blair says her fiance Martin pushed her out of the way when he saw the car coming their way. Martin was hit and sent flying through the air, breaking his leg. The moment was captured in a photograph that has been published widely.
Martin returned to the scene of the crash in a wheelchair Sunday night for a vigil for Heather. Blair calls Martin and Heather her “heroes”.
“She (Heather) had a quirky way of dealing with the hate that she knew that was going on in the world and she felt bad for people who weren’t like her and didn’t grow up like her and minorities and people of other races and religion that have to deal with hate every day, and she hated it,” Blair said.
“And she made sure she stood up for it and she spoke for people even if they didn’t want speak for themselves … Words can’t describe Heather, I will never find another friend like Heather.”
‘We need to start with forgiveness’
Mark Heyer said the only way to get through this tough time is to remember God teaches us to forgive.
“We need to start with forgiveness and stop all of the hate,” he said.
Heather worked as a paralegal for a Charlottesville law firm, assisting clients through the bankruptcy filing process. The Miller Law Group said in its online bio of Heather that she had a lot of knowledge and experience in the bankruptcy field.
Larry Miller, the president of the firm, told the Daily Beast that Heather had a big heart. “She’d hold their hand and make sure they would get the stuff in timely, that way we wouldn’t have any issues,” Miller told the Daily Beast. “She was really good at that.”
Heyer had just celebrated her five-year anniversary at her job.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised Heyer.
“She was doing what she loved,” McAuliffe said. “She was fighting for democracy, (for) free speech, to stop hatred and bigotry.”
Blair promised to make sure that Heather’s message would live on.
“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,” Blair told CNN. “She was very strong in what she felt and she spoke with conviction. And she would never back down from what she believed in. And that’s what she died doing, she died fighting for what she believed In. Heather was a sweet, sweet soul and she’ll never be replaced, she’ll never be forgotten.”