Heather Heyer died as she lived: fighting against injustice and advocating for marginalized people. On Saturday, Heyer joined a protest against white nationalists and neo-Nazis who had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia. When a 20-year-old man from Ohio plowed into the crowd of protesters with his car, Heyer was killed, and 19 others were injured. A public memorial service was held in her honor on Wednesday in Charlottesville, and in an emotional eulogy, Heyer's father told the mourning crowd how proud he was of her daughter, and implored the country to "forgive each other."
Mark Heyer fondly recalled his daughter's passion, and how she fought for what she believed in ever since she was young. He discussed his daughter's love for people, no matter where they were from, and urged the crowd to follow her example and "put down hate."
Earlier this week, Mark told the Asburg Park Press that he has forgiven the white supremacist who killed his daughter. During the memorial service, he reiterated this forgiveness, explaining that his daughter wanted equality. Toward the end of his speech, he became overwhelmed with emotion, and he concluded by expressing his pride in his daughter's desire to befriend people from so many different backgrounds.
"That's how Heather was," Mark said. "It didn't matter who you were or where you were from; she loved you and that was it. You were stuck. So for that, I'm truly proud of my daughter."
Read the full transcript of Mark Heyer's speech below:
No father should have to do this. But I love my daughter. And as I look out on you guys, you love her too. She was kind of hard that way, it was hard not to love her.
I want to tell a short story. When she was about nine, I came from Louisiana, her mom came from Virginia, and my folks came up from Florida and we went up to a cabin and we spent a few days together. And the evening was about to get a little chilly. And her mom told her to put a sweater on because we were going to the pool.
Well actually, I kind of agreed with Heather. She didn't want to put a sweater on. But she defied her mom and her mom said, "we're not going to the pool unless you put a sweater on." Well, for the next two hours, Heather decided that she knew better, at nine, and defied her mom. Well, the only thing I could do was go sit in a room with her. I couldn't cross her mom, and to this day I don't remember how that turned out. I don't really remember.
All I remember is Heather's passion. Heather's passion extended to her ideas, her thoughts; her grandfather was right. She could tell if somebody wasn't being straight and she'd call you on it. And like a father and daughter relationship, we don't always agree and Susan expressed to me that yeah, along with me and everybody else, she would argue if she thought it was appropriate. Even she didn't think it was appropriate, she would tell you what she thought.
As I listen to her friends, and hear stories of my daughter and the way she was, she loved people. She wanted equality. And in this issue, of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate and for my part, we just need to stop all this stuff and just forgive each other. I think that's what the Lord would want us to do, just to stop, just love one another.
I came here today and I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed at the rainbow of colors in this room. That's how Heather was. It didn't matter who you were or where you were from; she loved you and that was it. You were stuck. So for that, I'm truly proud of my daughter.