In a powerful response to the death of his daughter Heather, who was killed Saturday after a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Mark Heyer quoted the words Jesus spoke on the cross, calling for forgiveness.
“I just think about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,’” Mark Heyer said this week.
“I include myself in that in forgiving the guy who did this,” he said.
Though still in shock and mourning his 32-year-old daughter’s death, Heyer—a Christian—said that people on all sides need to learn to forgive each other. “We just need to stop all this stuff and forgive each other,” he said at a memorial service Wednesday.
I think that’s what the Lord would want us to do is to stop — just love one another,” he said.
Heyer has held up his daughter as an example of what can be done peacefully when people have the courage to stand up for their convictions.
“She had more courage than I did,” Mr. Heyer said of his daughter. “She had a stubborn backbone that if she thought she was right, she would stand there and defy you. If I understand her, she would want to do it peacefully.”
Heather Heyer was fatally hit by a car in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which drew white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members.
Heather, a paralegal at Miller Law Group, was among the group of counter-protesters demonstrating against the rally and targeted by 20-year-old James Alex Fields, who drove his car through their midst. Fields is now facing multiple charges, including a hit and run, second-degree murder, and counts of malicious wounding. Besides the death of Heather, 26 other victims were taken to the hospital for injuries.
“She was a strong woman who had passionate opinions about the equality of everyone, and she tried to stand up for that,” her father said.
“With her, it wasn’t lip service. It was real. … It was something that she wanted to share with everyone,” he continued, saying, “She had more courage than I did.”
Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, also underscored her daughter’s deep compassion for others, saying that “it was important to her to speak up for people who were not being heard.”
While devastated by the loss of his daughter, Mark Heyer hopes that her death will provoke more far-reaching change.
“I hope that her life and what has transpired changes people’s hearts.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome