CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The mother of the woman killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Virginia said she doesn’t want people to be angry about her daughter’s death. Instead, she said she wants people to continue her daughter’s fight against injustice in a peaceful way.
“I miss her so, so much, but I’m going to make her death worth something,” Susan Bro told the Associated Press in an interview Monday.
Bro described her daughter, Heather Heyer, as a courageous, stubborn and principled woman who was a firm believer in justice and equality, who died Saturday for those beliefs. Bro said she would prefer to grieve in private, but felt compelled to try to follow her daughter’s example.
“Let’s take from her death that we’re going to move forward in conversation. We’re going to move forward in understanding and listening to one another and seeing how we can come together,” Bro said.
Heyer, 32, was among the hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Charlottesville to decry what was believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade – including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members – who descended on the city to rally against plans to remove a Confederate statue.
Felicia Correa, a longtime friend of Heyer, said the slain woman was a “true American hero.”
Heyer grew up in Greene County and worked as a legal assistant at a law firm. Her boss, Larry Miller, said the young woman was active in the firm’s bankruptcy practice and had a “big heart.”
“She cares about the people we take care of. Just a great person,” he said.
Two state troopers – Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates – also died when their helicopter crashed in a wooded area while deployed as part of a large-scale police effort to contain Saturday’s violence. They were remembered for their commitment and love of their jobs.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe knew both troopers personally and expressed grief over their deaths. McAuliffe frequently uses state police aircraft to travel the state and said Cullen, 48, had been one of his regular pilots. Before joining the aviation unit, Bates has been a member of the state trooper team that guards the governor and his family.
“It was personal to me,” McAuliffe said Sunday morning at a church service. “We were very close.”
Cullen was a 23-year veteran of the department and head of the aviation unit. He is survived by his wife and two sons. Berke joined the department in 2004, and is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
“Both of them were great guys who loved what they were doing,” said Perry Benshoof, a retired trooper who worked with both.
Craig Bates said his younger brother had always wanted to serve others and to fly.
The younger Bates, who died one day short of his 41st birthday, worked for years as a trooper, first in Florida and then in Virginia. He’d recently gotten his pilot’s license so that he could apply to work for the department’s aviation unit. He got his wish, and joined the unit only last month.
“It was the culmination of a lot of dreams come true,” Craig Bates said. “This is something that he truly wanted to do. It was much too short but I’m grateful for the fact that he was able to do that.”
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