Mother honors daughter five years after events of Aug. 12 in Charlottesville

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 3:55 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - Today, a pair of Confederate statues no longer stand in Charlottesville. Five years have passed since those controversial symbols drew thousands for what would become a violent and deadly August day.

Susan Bro lost her daughter in 2017, following the failed Unite the Right Rally.

“Most days are okay,” said Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s Mother.

Heyer was on Fourth Street downtown taking part in counter-demonstrations when a white supremacist murdered her and injured dozens of others in a car attack.

“And I kind of chatter with her in the back of my mind, but a song will come along that sends me down,” said Bro.

A lot has changed in the city and across the state since the events of Charlottesville. The city’s current mayor says they’ve hired a deputy city manager for racial equity and diversity inclusion.

“We’ve also made some significant changes. We’re moving forward with a much more equitable zoning ordinance. That’s a good step in the right direction. We’ve got a lot more focus on racial equity issues and sensitivities in the way that the city functions,” said Mayor Lloyd Snook, City of Charlottesville.

The failures of that day were also pointed out in an after-action investigation and report - bringing about changes at the state level.

Then city leaders tried to move the rally’s location to a larger area, but a federal judge intervened the night before.

Then-governor Terry McAuliffe says being able to ban weapons would have been critical.

“So, now with the permitting process in the state, we have a better handle on how the permitting process should be done, the size, the location, the number of people, what you can bring with you,” said Terry McAuliffe, (D) former Virginia Governor.

McAuliffe sent 1,200 Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police troopers there that day, but local command issues caused confusion on who should intervene in the violence.

“Now, we’ve changed those regulations such that if the state is committing those types of resources, they would be in charge and be able to make those decisions,” said McAuliffe.

For Bro, the foundation she established in her daughter’s name is being dissolved. The Heather Heyer Foundation has given out $50,000 in scholarships.

Bro says she has no regrets.

“If you just keep tossing pebbles in the right direction, you keep making waves, and eventually, you get to where you’re trying to go,” said Bro.

Bro says they’re taking the remaining money from the foundation and giving it to another group that works in activism, as Heather encouraged.

Governor Glenn Youngkin also spoke about honoring the lives of Heyer and the two Virginia State Police troopers killed that day.

“We all remember and condemn the terrible violence that took place in Charlottesville five years ago. Today, I ask all Virginians to remember that violence and hate has no place in our Commonwealth or our country. There is so much more that unites us than divides us and we will continue our work to bring Virginians together. We remember and honor the lives of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates who we tragically lost five years ago,” Youngkin said.

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