Feature writing

Heather Heyer

I Was With Heather Heyer the Day She Died in Charlottesville: Her Mentor and Friends Remember Her

Website
The Daily Beast

Date:
December 18, 2017

Alfred A. Wilson

When she first met her boss and mentor Alfred A. Wilson, Heather Heyer referred to herself as “just a waitress.” She talked down her own abilities, said she didn’t know how to type, and had never worked in an office. But she also told Wilson she could make $200 in tips in a typical weekend at the small bar where she then worked.

“Wow, you must be good at what you do,” Wilson told Heyer. He “saw something” in the then-27-year-old Heyer and so in 2012 she became a paralegal at Miller Law Group on the outskirts of Charlottesville, aiding the firm’s clients who were facing and enduring bankruptcy.

“She just took off from there,” Wilson remembers of Heyer joining the firm, where he is the bankruptcy division manager. “She listened to people. I was blown away by how detailed she was about things, and making sure she got things right. She was very set in her ways and convictions. She thought everyone should get a chance.”

Wilson, a handsome and quiet-spoken man, is visibly emotional when speaking about Heyer. On Aug. 12, she was killed after being struck by a speeding car while protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville. Many other counterprotesters alongside her were injured, when James Alex Fields Jr., 20, drove into them.

Last week, Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, appeared in court in Charlottesville. A former teacher who had come to attend that weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally, he has been described as having an interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.

Initially charged with second-degree murder, Fields now faces a first-degree murder charge for the death of Heyer, and a further eight counts of “aggravated malicious wounding,” meaning—as The Washington Post reported—that eight of the 35 injured suffered “permanent and significant physical impairment.” Fields’ case is due to be presented to a grand jury for an indictment on Monday.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast last week, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, described why she had to keep her daughter’s grave a secret because of threats from neo-Nazis. She also revealed she was beginning to think President Donald Trump partly responsible for Heyer’s death, given his perceived alignment with white supremacy.

Bro now has an office herself at Miller Law Group, as she establishes the Heather Heyer Foundation, training and supporting the next generation of social justice leaders and activists.

Wilson and his wife, Feda, are close friends, and have supported Bro from the moment of Heyer’s death; Heyer herself was close with Wilson’s younger daughter, Amina (his eldest daughter is named Antonia; his middle child, his son, Jamil).

Heyer was empathetic and warm, said Wilson. She listened to people, and—armed with a high school degree—she wanted a chance to improve herself. He laughed, noting that she could be somewhat loud and profane in the office at times. “I would say to her, ‘You have to keep your inside voice inside sometimes,’” Wilson said.

Heyer’s compassion came from Bro, Wilson is sure, who worked to support Heather and her brother, Nick, as a single parent for a period of years. Heyer had always been politically and socially engaged, and that became more pronounced with the presidential election of 2016 which had left Heyer “mortified,” Wilson said.

Wilson was a political science major himself in college—yet, he said smiling, it had been Heyer who had alerted him to the silent racism that existed around him throughout his life.

He recalled them both coming out of one appointment with a client, and Heyer noting that as he had smiled and shaken the hand of the client, the client hadn’t “cared” for Wilson. He had given Wilson “a look,” she said. She wondered why Wilson seemed fine with it.

“I said to Heather, ‘I’m not fine with it.’”

He recalled the years of non-handshakes with white clients. “Sometimes they say ‘I have a cold,’ or ‘Oh, I don’t shake hands because of germs,’ or ‘I’m not feeling good today.’ I would think in the back of my mind, I would hope people were good—that they really were sick, that they were really concerned for my health. I would hope they would think that once they sit down with me, this guy, they’d think, ‘He’s fairly educated and he’s going to help me with my problem.’”

Heyer, however, recognized prejudice, and called it out. “She would see I was getting treated differently. I was blind to it. I had been treated it like all my life, and hadn’t recognized it. I had gotten used to it.”

Wilson recalled going out to buy tennis shoes. At the end of the transaction, he gave the assistant in the store a $5 tip, and when the assistant asked why, Wilson told him that he had done a great customer service job.

The same assistant had followed Wilson around the store prior to him making the purchase; Wilson hoped the tip would show the assistant they should have thought differently about him as a black customer beforehand.

Heyer was passionate about injustice around many issues, including racism and homophobia. Wilson would see her in tears over posts on Facebook, and various political news stories. “Why are they treating my friends differently?” she would ask.

The office had talked as a whole about attending the counterprotests to the “Unite the Right” rally. Wilson wanted to go but felt he couldn’t protect his family, even if his son is 18 and way taller than him, he noted smiling.

His 21-year-old daughter was not scared, nor his 15-year-old daughter. “I’ve raised three strong-minded, strong-willed kids. But I wouldn’t be able to protect my kids as I wanted to,” says Wilson.

Wilson and Feda moved to Charlottesville with their young family in 2000. “My wife is Palestinian. We have always felt welcome here. We wanted a better life for our kids, and it had a great education system here. We wanted to raise our kids in a beautiful place, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

The racists who brought violence to town had come from outside it, Wilson said. For Wilson, without those outsiders, Charlottesville does not have a deep racism problem. In the first few weeks a stranger in town had approached him to chat, and within days he was set on course in the career he now has. He hoped he was similarly helping Heyer.

Despite his generally positive experience of living here, since the events of Aug. 12, Wilson said he had become alarmed at people in the area “coming out of the woodwork and saying things and people walking on eggshells.”

He still loves Charlottesville, he emphasizes, he just worries the town authorities were “too liberal” in allowing the far-right and neo-Nazis to come to Charlottesville that weekend to hold their rally, and with it all the violence that came from that, including Heyer’s death.

“I wish they had taken a stronger line about not letting them march. To me it seemed that after that Tiki torch thing [when far-right protesters holding flaming torches—and shouting slogans like “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”—had marched at the University of Virginia] that somebody should have said, ‘We need to shut this thing down. Tomorrow’s march is not happening.’ They should have put their foot down as other cities have done.” (Charlottesville authorities recently denied “Unite the Right” rally organizer Jason Kessler’s bid to hold an anniversary rally next year.)

Wilson’s cousins in Baltimore suggested he and his family move there after last August’s events, but he had said no: Charlottesville was beautiful and without the hustle and bustle, he said.

However, Wilson wishes that Charlottesville would remove, as Baltimore did, the controversial statues of Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which are the symbolic focus of the far-right protests.

“You’ve seen the pain,” Wilson would say to the authorities in Charlottesville. “Remove them. Put them in a warehouse. Right now they are serving no historical purpose.”

Wilson’s last conversation with Heyer had been on the Friday night hours before she died on Saturday afternoon. At the end of every week, the office has drinks in the reception area.

Heyer had been planning to come in over the weekend to work on a couple of cases she was preparing for the following week. “She was very committed. I would normally tell her not to work too late.” Wilson said he would see her on Monday.

Wilson was unaware of the events unfolding in downtown Charlottesville on Aug. 12. He had been watching a sporting event on TV. Bro called him from the hospital, where he immediately headed with Feda and Amina.

“I felt numb, I didn’t feel it could be happening, that they were going to be wrong and she wasn’t dead. They had misspoken, that her legs were maybe broken, that she had almost died. Then we got to the hospital. Susan was sitting there. She looked at me, and then she hugged me.

“I thought, ‘Oh crap, this is real. This has happened.’ I didn’t cry. My wife didn’t cry. We didn’t want to cry in front of Susan. My wife went to drive Heather’s car from the McDonald’s parking lot where it was still parked. I watched her drive that car behind me, thinking that my wife was sitting in the same seat as Heather had been sitting in only hours before.”

The next day they helped clean out Heyer’s apartment. Since then Wilson has stayed busy, “not feeling what is going on. Susan tells me to speak to someone, to see someone, to talk about how I’m feeling, and sometimes I’ll just be sitting there and I’ll just cry. I feel sorry for my new assistant. I’ll hit the button on my phone and say, ‘Heather, Heather,’ and she doesn’t say anything. ‘Then I’ll say, ‘Oh crap, Amy [Heyer’s replacement], I’m sorry.’”

Heyer had written all the internal office numbers and names on his phone, Wilson says.

“Heather would know what I needed in cases. I have to stop myself from saying to the staff, ‘Heather would have done it like this.’ That’s what I want to say, but I don’t because they’re already feeling bad enough and I don’t want them to think they’re not living up to what I was expecting.”

Wilson pauses, tearing up. “It’s hard. Yesterday I was in here with a client of Heather’s. I sat here crying with him. He was a gay black man. He was thanking me, and he also apologized. I asked him what he was apologizing for. He said, ‘She treated me as if I was the richest man. I walked in here and got the best customer service from that young lady. I was about to lose my house, but she just saw ‘Mr. Smith.’” (This is not his real last name, to protect his identity.)

Wilson adds very quietly, “I just lost it in front of him. I apologized to him, but he told me it was OK. It made him feel as if he had chosen the right law firm because I was crying.”

He pauses again. “I don’t intentionally plan on doing it. It just happens. It’s hard to deal with it. I try to fight it. The dad side of me makes me not want the kids to see me cry.”

He cried in front of Feda and Bro at a recent civil rights event. “I’ve no freaking idea why I started crying at dinner thinking about Heather. Susan has told me, ‘Alfred, you’re trying to hold everything in to protect us, making sure that everything is right. You’ve got to stop doing that.’”

At home, Wilson and his family are having deeper conversations, which makes him recall how quiet Heyer was in public forums, but more voluble in smaller groups and one-on-one.

Wilson thinks Heyer would have been “somewhat embarrassed” about the news coverage and publicity around her death, but she would also have been “kicking with joy” at the social justice movement that has flowed from it, and awareness of the issues she felt so passionately about.

The night before we met, Wilson had been speaking to a representative of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, with whom the Heather Heyer Foundation will be collaborating. “I thought, ‘Heather united us,’” Wilson said.

A key letter of designation for the charity in Heyer’s name was processed in super-quick time. “I thought, ‘Heather’s working to make sure this happens,’” said Wilson.

“Whenever I’m having a hard time with deadlines, time opens up to make sure I get done what I need to do. I believe she would want us to be speaking up, saying something. She loved my family so much.” The Wilsons will attend the planned renaming of Fourth Street in Heyer’s name.

At the time of her death, Wilson wanted Heyer to go to paralegal school; he was getting the paperwork underway for her 401(k) plan, another plan to help her niece, and he was helping her think about buying a house so she wouldn’t be siphoning off money paying rent. His goal was to eventually have Heyer running Miller Law’s bankruptcy department.

It feels like it’s been a year rather than just four months since Heyer’s death, Wilson says. “It feels sometimes that everything stops here, like I see people moving but it doesn’t feel like they are moving. I think as I sit there I’m going to hear her walk through the door and yell out to me, ‘Sorry, I’m late, I overslept.’”

Wilson’s voice cracks again. “I know it’s not going to happen.” He smiles and laughs softly. “She was a late sleeper. I keep hoping to hear that. I keep stopping, waiting for that moment.”

About his grieving, Wilson says, “I feel like I cheated myself. I keep holding it in, holding it back. I need to find time to do it. I want to shut down for two or three days, get a big tub of ice cream and watch a series of Law and Order—sit back and not have to think. I think constantly. I’m a numbers person. I solve people’s problems. I very rarely sit back and just relax. I feel like I don’t have time to grieve. I don’t know when or if it will happen.”

Wilson’s three children have a lot going on in their lives, and are all at key points in their educations, and he needs to focus on shepherding them through it all. He is clearly devoted to them and to Feda, and wants to be a traditional dad—strong and dependable, and wary of anything that might imperil that. That, of course, is a hard load for one’s back, especially when you want to grieve or even feel vulnerable.

He smiles. “Heather would see pictures of my family, and she would joke, ‘Your family is so perfect. You’re so beautiful. Your wife is so beautiful. You guys have that luck. Things happen right for you.’”

Wilson’s voice cracks again. “She was wrong because she’s gone. If things happen right for me and my family, she would still be here.”

Wilson is making sure Amina opens up, as she was so close to Heyer. “She’s grown up a lot in the last four months. She wrote an essay in journalism class about her. She also told me Heather would have told her to do what she has done, which was to go over and introduce herself to this group of white ‘country boys’ who usually stay in their huddle. She went over, said hi, shook their hands, and later found out they had voted for her to be president of the class.”

As for Heyer’s alleged killer, it strikes Wilson he is just 20. His daughter is 21, and so he knows how much young people can change in a year at that age. “She’s a strong leader, not a follower. He’s a kid, misguided, I pray for him. I hope that something opens him up to feel. I feel sorry for his mom. Susan and his mom have both lost their child. His mom has lost her child, and in a way I feel mad at her.

“I stay in my kids’ lives. I listen to what they’re doing, their political views. If she was talking to him more maybe it would have prevented him from making the decision he made.

“He was driving from Ohio to Virginia. Did she think he was just going to a Republican political rally? It wasn’t voting season. What were you thinking? My daughter is 21 years old. She is not going to travel across multiple states without making me understand why she’s going.”

We spoke before Fields’ preliminary hearing last Thursday. He was planning on attending. “I know Heather would have spoken up and been there. Part of me wants to go and try and be my best and not be mad. We’re here to allow justice do what justice needs to do, to let the law speak and to let the law heal.”

Does he think the Charlottesville police were deficient that day?

“Yeah, they weren’t prepared. On video from that day, you see on their faces they were scared. They weren’t expecting that. If they were prepared, I believe a lot of different things would have taken place. There’s no reason why people need to carry that kind of weaponry for a public rally. The city authorities and police department should have seen that and said, ‘We need to shut this down before it goes further.’”

When I ask Wilson, in his view, who or what killed Heyer that day, he becomes quiet. He says he has never been asked this.

He says, in one intimate conversation with Bro, she had said to him, “‘Alfred, I’m sorry it took a white woman to be killed for people to recognize what you have seen all your life.’ Had it been a black female, would everyone be speaking up and making a big deal of it? Probably not. There’s an expectation that something like that would happen, and people would move on.

“A white female standing up for the rights of gays, blacks, and Muslims made everyone sit up, open up their eyes, and say, ‘Crap, this is really happening.’ Had it been a black female, there would have been a thought of, ‘Oh, she probably did something to provoke it.’ They would have found something ‘wrong’ with her. Heather’s death has opened up so many conversations, so many people’s eyes, to how bad it is out there. It has been hidden for so long.

“So, who killed her? I would say our society killed her. When we decided to vote for some guy who doesn’t care about women, and other races, other religions. He openly bashes them. Our society killed her.”

Wilson was “appalled” at the response of President Trump to Heyer’s murder and the violence in Charlottesville. “I don’t call him President. I call him Mr. Trump. I don’t see him as the president, I don’t see him as a leader. A person who leads, I tell my children, earns your respect, earns their title. You will stand when they walk into a room because you know that person is special. My eldest daughter is that kind of person, and has that kind of presence.

“Our society did this to her,” he says again about Heyer’s death, as if aghast but also grimly accepting to have alighted on the conclusion.

Before Heyer died, she had spoken out on Facebook about a local sheriff who was running an anti-Muslim “terrorist education class.” She was furious that public money was being spent to bash another culture. “Alfred, they’re talking about your wife,” Heyer said to Wilson. “They don’t know her. She’s a beautiful woman. They’re bashing her without meeting her.”

“I dislike saying it was Heather’s destiny to be there,” says Wilson, “but we needed her to speak up, we needed someone to make a change, to be that symbol, to be that person that gets us to have these conversations. We need to keep encouraging people to open their mouths and open their eyes and open their hearts. That’s what we’ve got to do. We have to keep doing that.”

The Heather Heyer Foundation will hopefully help do that, Wilson said. Bro says he seems to be doing four jobs right now, and it’s true, but it won’t always be so, he adds. “Charlottesville is growing. It’s going to be fine. We just need to be strong enough and stick together and not let outsiders divide the city. That’s the fear I have. So far the city is doing really well, and not letting that take place.”

 

Justin Marks

Justin Marks, who works in the Miller Law office as a paralegal, was a close of friend of Heyer’s for about 15 years since high school. He talks in halting sentences, and clearly misses her very much still.

“She was consistently herself,” Marks says of Heyer. “She was a very authentic person, she didn’t wear any mask. She was always really funny, she was one of the funniest people I have ever known, very quick-witted. She was a talker, she was a Gemini. She talked constantly. Sometimes I had to tell her to shut up. I’m not a phone person, but I could sit on the phone with her for 4 hours. She didn’t run out of shit to talk about.”

Honesty was important to Heyer, Marks says.

Initially, she and Marks had decided not to attend the counterprotests, he says. “We knew it was going to be a shit-show. But then she texted me the night before the rally late at night and said that she was thinking about going. She asked me to go with her and I said no.”

Marks’ voice falters, and he sighs.

“She went with Courtney [Commander, Heyer’s friend who also works in the office]. I decided not to go because we had heard things here and there about the intent of the people coming to town. She decided to go at the last minute.”

Marks thinks it was the footage of the Friday night Tiki torch protests at the University of Virginia that convinced Heyer to attend the counterprotest on Saturday.

“I talked to her on Saturday before she went. I just said something stupid not in regards to the demonstration. Heather was also the type of person who might change her mind at the last minute. I wasn’t 100 percent convinced she was going to go. And I probably didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to encourage the idea. But she went anyway.”

Marks received a call from someone at the rally after the incident with Fields’ car to say they couldn’t find Heyer. Marks asked the person what they meant. They said everyone had been scattered when the car had plowed into the crowd.

He got another call from a friend at the hospital whose staff needed to contact Heyer’s next of kin. This person knew Marks would have Bro’s number.

Marks’ voice cracks, and he pauses. I ask him if he wants to stop.

“Nah, it’s fine,” he says. “I’ve cried about it a hundred times, but I’m surprised I can still cry about it.”

Bro went to the hospital and discovered Heyer had died.

I ask how life has been since Heyer’s death for Marks.

“OK, I mean, OK. Life is different, but…” His voice tails off.

Does he miss her? “Mmmhmmm, yeah.”

Of how Heyer would have reacted to all that has unfolded around her death, Marks says, “I know she would laugh about it for sure, how stupid it all actually is. I don’t know how she would feel about it. Part of her might feel happy that it got people to pay attention. Knowing Heather, she would have had many feelings about it, for real.

“It does feel like a long time ago, but it doesn’t at the same time,” Marks says of the time elapsed since Aug. 12. He has known Amy, who has taken over Heyer’s position, for a long time, and Amy helped get Heyer the job in the first place, he says.

I ask Marks what I had asked Wilson: Who or what killed Heyer on Aug. 12.

“That question could go way back. You could say the individual, or you could say the groups themselves encouraged it, or could say what some of our political parties have morphed into recently.” He thinks the bitter racism of those who objected to having a black president may have fed into the white supremacist demonstrators’ anger. Perhaps it is a convergence of all those things, he says.

Marks was born and raised in Charlottesville. “Of course Charlottesville has its fair amount of bigots, every town does,” he says. “But overall I don’t feel it’s the tone of the town.” The city is its own liberal oasis surrounded by more conservative areas, he notes.

Charlottesville should decide what it is going to do with the two statues under tarp, their futures in unknown stasis, Marks says. “It makes you feel Aug. 12 was for nothing,” says Marks.

“What are you gonna do?” he says of grieving and missing his friend. “Life goes on. It sucks. At this point I try not to dwell on it. It feels like I have done for months.”

If other white supremacy rallies happen, or more violence, Marks thinks Charlottesville won’t continue to be perceived as progressive, because progressives won’t want to live there. “The town can survive, but not if we makes this shit a tradition. Charlottesville is not going to be anything.”

Marks, who defines himself as a liberal, says he tries to see both sides of an argument. So would Heyer.

The two friends would talk about getting involved in local politics. “I’m not polished enough. Heather would say the same thing about herself.”

Both of them didn’t know what they wanted to do in the future. When Heyer got the job at Miller Law, she needed a job, he says. “It turned into more of that for her. I don’t know if she had plans to parlay that into anything else. Heather always underestimated herself in the world. She was very capable and more capable than most people. She didn’t have much money growing up, and that definitely affected her in some way.

“I think she felt the world was very big. She liked Charlottesville, she had no desires to move anywhere else. She definitely liked to stick with what she knew. I have lived in other places and would joke about moving away. She would never entertain that. I think she felt life was hard; why make it harder?”

I ask if it is too melodramatic to suggest she was killed doing something she very passionately believed in. Marks nods. “She was, she would say the same thing. It’s kind of fitting actually. I don’t think that’s melodramatic at all. I think it’s what it is.”

 

Courtney Commander

Courtney Commander, a paralegal in Miller Law’s real estate department and a close friend of Heyer’s, was with her at the counterprotest the day she was killed. “In the weeks leading up, we weren’t sure if we wanted to go. We had seen the videos of how violent those groups could be.”

Commander had been one of the counterprotesters at the university the night before, facing the far-right demonstrators with their Tiki torches.

“We linked arms with the people surrounding the statue. We were so scared,” she recalls. “It was a sea of flames, and these guys in polos and khakis with torches going everywhere around the statue [of Thomas Jefferson]. Lighter fluid was doused on people. The cops didn’t do anything.”

Commander woke at 8 a.m. the next morning, hearing that demonstrations were already stirring downtown. Marissa Blair, another Miller Law colleague, and her fiancé, Marcus Martin, were going to the counterprotest. Heyer called Commander at 11:30 that morning to ask where the group was. They arranged to meet at McDonald’s.

“She bought something there, a hash brown, because she didn’t want to get her car towed,” recalls Commander. While there, she got into an exchange with a friend of Jason Kessler, organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally.

A crowd of neo-Nazis walked past, and then Commander, Heyer, Blair, and Martin found a group of counterprotesters, walking toward Water Street. Heyer asked a female far-right protester why she wanted to be part of the far-right rally. The woman responded that she couldn’t comment.

With the other counterprotesters, Heyer and Commander chanted chants such as, “Whose streets? Our streets.”

At the intersection of Fourth and Water streets, a megaphone instruction came to turn left to go up Fourth to head toward the Downtown Mall.

The four friends were in the first of the rows of counterprotesters. Heyer was on Commander’s right. Fields’ car mowed into them.

Commander was “nicked” by it, and ended up with a lateral meniscus tear in her knee. In one picture taken by a photographer she shows me, she indicates the top of Heyer’s head, her glasses, right in front of the speeding car. Martin is seen in another image of the day, mid-air, having been struck by the car, breaking his leg pushing Blair out of the way.

“There were bodies everywhere, blood everywhere,” recalls Commander. “I don’t think I realized the car had gone through the crowd when I got back up. The first thing I saw was Marissa’s jean hat that said ‘Fuck Trump.’ I see the car backing up as if it’s going to reverse over us, and I try and run over to the sidewalk. Marissa had run towards the Mall. I ran towards Water Street.

“I saw bodies, blood, people laying there run over. It was the most horrific thing I have ever seen in my life. I was projectile vomiting. It was a horror movie.”

A stranger answered Heyer’s phone when Commander called it. She didn’t know who the person was and was nervous to meet them to retrieve the phone. At the hospital, Commander said, Blair had overheard someone talking about a woman wearing all black, “not making it.”

Heyer’s car was still in the McDonald’s car park.

“I couldn’t believe of all people she had to be the one who died,” said Commander.

In her last moments, she said, Heyer had seemed stressed and confused. “She was not able to understand why those far-right people were standing up for something so nasty and cruel.” But also in those last moments was Heyer feeling positively part of the counterprotest.

Since Aug. 12, Commander has not driven down Fourth Street. Heyer would have been “disgusted” by President Trump’s “both sides” comment. “But she wouldn’t have been surprised. That’s who he is, and what he does.”

Heyer was smart and engaged, Commander says, and was one of a few friends with whom Commander could talk about politics and social justice. She was also exercised about the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

At the office Commander misses her friend’s good cheer, which was even in evidence when she had cases piled up on her desk. “I really feel her presence missing. I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact she’s not coming back here. It feels so long for me, it feels like a blur. I’ve had four sessions of counseling. I wouldn’t have been able to talk to you before having that.”

Like Wilson, Commander feels she has to attend Fields’ court appearances, “to be there for my friend who was murdered. She would be at the court proceedings for my killer. I also need to show that they are not going to win this. I was really messed up in so many ways. I have two kids [a son of 8 and a daughter of 2] at home, and I couldn’t take care of them for weeks.

“I want justice to be served in the best way possible, but it can be hard to trust the justice system to do that when it failed us so many other times. What I don’t want to see happen is an insanity plea.”

The possibility of another event like the “Unite the Right” rally, and what happened around it, makes Commander “sick to the stomach.”

It’s amazing to see the memorial graffiti at the spot where Heyer was struck, she says, and to see the people reading those words.

“People around Heather knew her, but she wasn’t a well-known girl,” says Commander. “Now the whole world knows her name, and that’s awesome.”