Susan Bro and Mark Heyer, the parents of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was run over and killed by the man who rammed his car into a crowd of demonstrators opposing the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., have brought some sanity to a situation that in simple terms is insane but that unfortunately spotlights a troublesome era in American society.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” Susan Bro said at her daughter’s memorial service held Aug.16 at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville.

At the service, Mark Heyer said that his daughter from a young age was defiant, strong-willed and compassionate and always argued for what she thought was right. He said they didn’t always agree but that he always heard her perspective.


I’ve read no reports of Heyer’s parents questioning why this tragedy should have happened to their loved one.

Frequently, news reports give us the remorseful and questioning remarks from parents who typically ask “Why?”

Or we hear,“Gone too soon.” 

Another frequent heart-wrenching remark is “He/she was starting college tomorrow!”

The strength and commitment Susan Bro displayed in her words  “. . . you just magnified her” should be used as a catalyst to guide us through this social and political nightmare we find ourselves living in.

The racism and anger that white nationalists let loose in Charlottesville have been simmering in America but now finally have unleashed their venom.

As parents, we’re not sure how to explain this troublesome and frightening social climate to our children. The truth is, we have no measure of experience as to how to explain it to ourselves.

It’s a war zone, even if we prefer not to admit it. But as the militants used to say back in the Sixties, when someone like Angela Davis was the featured speaker, “Pull the covers off!”

Susan Bro’s words regarding her daughter’s death have laid the mattress bare. The covers are off.
As parents, we not only need to heed the words to “magnify” the life of Heather Heyer but we also need to help our children to understand that silence is not necessarily golden.

As parents, we set the example. Where is our commitment? What are the values we live by? How are we reacting to the tumult?

Children of all ages are watching the turmoil and, most importantly, they’re watching us. 

What to tell them? What to show them?

Heather’s parents have said their daughter had a strong sense of what was right and that she stood against things she saw that were against the good for all people.

I call that a message for the rest of us.


On the opposite end of the parental spectrum is the tragic life of James Alex Fields, 20, the troubled young white nationalist who is charged with ramming his car into the anti-nationalist demonstrators, killing Heather. 

Google Images -James Alex Fields


His mother, according to news reports, didn’t know much about her son. She knew he was going to a rally but she says she simply thought it was “a Trump rally.” She reportedly didn’t know her son was involved in a white nationalist movement.

She did know enough about him to fear for her life. 

In 2010, she reported to police that he had hit her in the head and that he threatened to beat her when she told him to stop playing video games. 
Reports further say the mother, who is in a wheelchair, reported he was taking medication to control his temper and that she was locked in the bathroom while calling police.

On another occasion, the reports say, James had threatened his mother with a knife, and that she also called police to say he had spit in her face.

James reportedly spent time in juvenile detention, and his mother is said to have requested that her son be assessed at a hospital.

News reports do not indicate if this was done and, if so, what the results were. But regardless, we can see that help was not provided and, or that if it was, it was inadequate.

James’ mother, as well as Susan Bro and Mark Heyer, have lost their children. But a stark difference in their children is evident.

One of the young persons stood for good and the other was obsessed with evil.  

Parents, let’s ask ourselves which of these two young people we will raise our children to emulate. 

Susan Bro doesn’t believe Heather has been silenced. She believes her daughter has been magnified, and I believe it is up to other parents to shine our and our children’s light on goodness.

Troubled young people like James Alex Field need the help that his mother requested.

Where to place the blame for a hate-filled young monster who mowed down innocent people?

What forces created the defiant, strong-willed and compassionate Heather Heyer?

These are questions to ponder as parents and to act accordingly.



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jean C. Troy

    We all pray and work toward children like Heather, and we pray for the Gods to smile on us with such a child. Unfortunately some of us get children like James, and we really don’t know why is it DNA is it not being raised properly or is it some cosmic issue we can’t seem to get a handle on. I know the young man should have been under some ones care, He was truly sick. But Hate took him in and nurtured his sickness and encouraged his hate until He answered the need to kill someone. Here in America we refuse to look at mental illness as something we need to focus on we refuse to help the relatives who ask for help when they see things are wrong. then in the aftermath we say why???

  2. Bill

    Dear Shirlee,

    How absolutely gut-wrenching it is that you had to write a blog about how and what parents should do; to help our children deal with the grandiose social/political tragedy in Charlottesville,VA! What is even worst is that in 2017—– the simmering cauldron of racial strife and hatred have boiled over with seething steam; as well as volcanic intensity. Is this analogous to The Civil War, Jim Crow, etc. all over again? Dejavu I’m afraid.

    “Love is or it ain’t.”
    —Toni Morrison
    “The impulse to dream has been slowly beaten out of me by experience. Now it surged up again and I hungered for books, new ways of looking and seeing.”
    —Richard Wright

    Parents, foster parents, caregivers, teachers, relatives, family and community members must assess HOW they themselves wish to react/behave to deplorable, insidious, racist, classicist and inhumane actions/behaviors that are going on right now. We must teach our children that certain behaviors CANNOT and WILL NOT be tolerated. That these behaviors, thoughts and beliefs are rooted in our poisonous soil of history. Ignoring behaviors and social climates WILL NOT MAKE INJUSTICE GO AWAY. But there is a way to be defiant…without being violent. In age-appropriate ways of course, we can help our children by having discussions of how we (the parents/adults feel). Then we ask them, WHAT and HOW do they feel?

    One way of approaching this serious situation, is to deal with popular culture. Ask the children to identify music (including rap…non inflammatory/non-misogynistic of course) or , poems, art, pictures, dance, movies, t.v. episodes or community events that reflect what they themselves are feeling. Discuss these points. Afterward, parents /adults could go and make comparisons for what was popular toward speaking out against society’s ills– during their own generations. Some examples: Music–Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On? Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready. Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam & The King of Love is Dead (after Dr. King’s assassination). Mavis & The Staple Singers’ Respect Yourself. Aretha’s Respect. And Sly and Family Stone’s Stand; Family Affair; and Don’t Call Me Nigger Whitey…Don’t Call Me Whitey Nigger. The Temptations’ Ball of Confusion. And Michael Jackson’s Man In the Mirror.

    For Movies–Detroit (current release 2017). Denzel as Hurricane Carter in Hurricane.
    Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Back On the Bus and School Daze. The Help. The Butler. Sounder. And Twelve Years A Slave.

    For Books or Poetry: Dr. Maya Angelou’s On the Pulse of Morning; or Now I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time; Going to Meet the Man; Another Country. James Baldwin & Margaret Mead – A Rap On Race. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye;
    Tar Baby. Artist Cynthia Saint James’ children’s book No Mirrors In My Nana’s House. Children’s book – Where Have All of the Children Gone? Michael Eric Dyson’s Open Mike.

    For T.V. pick from various series or movies that had plots dealing with race, culture and
    social discord. Find a DVD or YouTube for Oprah’s Legends Ball – Honoring 50 Black Women whom made social contributions from Civil Rights to Entertainment to Literature.

    Hopefully, we as a society can show Heather Heyer’s parents (Susan and Mark Heyer) that by bringing common sense of human dignity, acceptance of diversity and RESPECT to this society…then Heather would not have died in vain.

    “Truth-tellers are not always palatable. There is a preference for candy bars.”
    —Gwendolyn Brooks
    —Bill Allen,Jr.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *