Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
In a poignant and rallying message, Susan Bro, the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, spoke beautifully about her daughter’s life — and how all of us can honor her legacy.
There is surely no anguish comparable to that which comes from losing a child.
And when that child is taken at a young age, and in a violent manner on public display, the pain must be even more singular.
Heather Heyer was just 32 years old when a white supremacist murdered her with his car during the violent, neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday. Her death, occurring in front of the world, was jarring and horrifying.
And her mother, Susan Bro, is living through trauma the likes of which most of us will never know.
But she is not letting the bigots who silenced her daughter’s voice take hers away, too. And at Heather’s memorial service Wednesday, Susan spoke beautifully and poignantly about what she wants the nation and the world to take away from her child’s life, and to turn into Heather’s legacy.
“But here’s what I want to say to you today,” Susan told the large crowd assembled at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville. “This could be a storm in a teacup and it could all be for nothing. I could’ve said, ‘Let’s do don’t this publicly, let’s have a small, private funeral.’ But you know, that’s not who Heather was. Anybody who knew Heather said, ‘Yeah, this is the way she had to go, big and large.’ Had to have the world involved, because that’s my child.”
Susan told the audience that, like Heather, “A lot of you go that extra mile,” and that one of the reasons her daughter’s death has “struck a chord” with so many people is that they know that “what she did is achievable.”
And it is achievable despite what the bigots did.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” Susan declared. “Well, guess what? You just magnified her.”
And to anyone wondering what they can do in the wake of this tragedy, to the people who wrote “pages and pages and pages” of letters to her, Susan urged for “this to spread. I don’t want this to die.”
“This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy,” she said — a legacy that it is on all of us to honor.
“You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. ‘What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see?’”
And if doubts or nerves or uncertainty threaten to get in the way of action, Susan was forthright: “You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would’ve done, and you make it happen! You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.”
Susan noted that there must be some “uncomfortable dialogues” and that it’s not going to be all “kumbaya.” But that we need to channel our frustration, anger, and our differences into “righteous action.”
“The conversations have to happen; that’s the only way we’re going to carry Heather’s spark through,” she said.
And in her closing remarks, she got right to the core of the matter:
So remember in your heart: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention, find what’s wrong — don’t ignore it, don’t look the other way. You make a point to look at it and say to yourself, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we’re gonna make it count.
Watch her moving speech below — and take her words to heart.
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First published in ShareBlue.