CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Heather Heyer’s public memorial service began with a testament of her character: She was, a family friend said, “a young woman who lost her life defending the rights of others.”
“I would like for us to carry her legacy on by doing the same thing: Respecting the rights of everyone,” Kathy Brinkley said about the 32-year-old killed Saturday when a car hit her and other counterprotesters who opposed a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Relatives, friends and dignitaries, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and US Sen. Tim Kaine, were among those who gathered Wednesday in Charlottesville’s roughly 1,000-seat Paramount Theater.
Heather’s father, Mark Heyer, choked up as he spoke of his daughter.
“She wanted equality, and in this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate,” Heyer said. “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.”
The racial diversity of those in the auditorium, he said, reflected Heather’s embrace of people of all colors.
“It didn’t matter who you were or where you from,” Mark Heyer said. “If she loved you, that was it — you were stuck. For that, I’m truly proud of my daughter.”
Many wore purple — a color she loved.
“Purple is a symbol of openness — It basically lets other people know, ‘I’m willing to work with you.’ That’s something that Heather was,” friend Alfred Wilson told CNN’s “New Day” before the gathering.
“She was a person that was willing to work with anyone,” Wilson, wearing a suit and a purple bow tie, said. “She was a very kind, generous person, and someone that actually was very opinionated and spoke up for what she believed was right.”
Friend: She was afraid protesters would be violent
Heyer, a paralegal at the Charlottesville-based Miller Law Group, had told co-workers Friday that she was going to be among the counterprotesters rallying against the “Unite the Right” groups.
She was nervous about going, but felt she needed to be among the counterprotesters to stand up what she believed in, her co-worker and friend Victoria Jackson told CNN.
One of the last conversations they had before each left for the weekend was about the rally.
“Heather said, ‘I want to go so badly but I don’t want to get shot. I don’t want to die,’ ” Jackson remembered Heyer saying.
Heyer was afraid of the protesters because she believed they were not here for peace, her co-worker said.
Jackson held back tears as she talked about her friend, whose work station is now surrounded by flowers and messages from clients and friends. The scent of roses filled the air.
On her work desk are purple sticky notes, purple cover sheets and a pair of plastic purple hands in a thumbs-up position that used to hold her cellphone in place.
Each employee at the law firm received a pen Tuesday with a note that read: “Although her desk sits empty today, we will never forget how much she impacted our lives. Her presence will forever be remembered.”
‘All she wants is equality for everyone’
“She was an outspoken, outgoing, determined and passionate individual and had a special regard for social injustices and especially those concerning race relations,” the venue holding the memorial said in a news release.
Heyer’s family and friends said the 32-year-old paralegal dedicated her life to standing up for those she felt were not being heard.
“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,” said close friend and co-worker Marissa Blair, who was with Heyer when she was killed.
As a paralegal, Heyer assisted clients through the bankruptcy filing process.
She ate lunch at her desk because she was dedicated to the needs of her clients, Jackson said, adding that Heyer usually ordered Jimmy John’s sandwiches.
She had just celebrated her five-year anniversary with the firm last week. Her boss, Larry Miller, said they went out for lunch for the occasion and remembers telling her that she was a lot better than she gave herself credit for. Miller describes Heyer as precise with her work, witty and like family.
He said he told her Friday, “Have a good weekend. Be careful.”