The irony of tragedy


One life matters.

We think we know it. We hope we know it. But the truth of it is hard and real when you see that one life taken. I’ve thought about Heather Heyer all weekend. Heather was killed, Saturday, in Charlottesville, Virginia, by a murderer. Someone else may call the man who took her life a racist. It looked like murder, to me. When her death showed up on my newsfeed, via video, it looked like murder.

It doesn’t matter. Racism is hate and hate is murder. We can call it what it is. It’s murder. The offender was charged with second degree homicide. The victim was, by any degree, a wonderful spirit. Here’s all I understand about this murder:

Racists were exercising their First Amendment right to protest. They announced it in advance. Predictably, some normal people showed up in opposition. Some rights are equal. Apparently, some are more equal than others. One racist thought his was the most equal of all, and drove his car into the normal people, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring many more.

But that one life mattered. That soul taken brought something to mind I’m still struggling with. She was protesting hatred of people of color. I’ve never, ever, been publicly hated for being white. I’ve never been killed for being white (obviously). Heather, who was white, was killed for refusing to hate color. To me, that makes her a hero. But a tragic irony, as well.

The incident was a brutal shock and something I wished I hadn’t seen or paid attention to. In my life, I’ve seen assassinations, moon landings, political scandals – things you know are rare moments. But this thing, this murder, was different. It made me think about race in ways I couldn’t comprehend.

I sat at this desk Sunday evening, trying to make sense of it when Cora, the wonderful woman who cleans our office came in. Cora’s skin is black and I had honestly never noticed until Sunday night. I got up from the desk and walked to the front of the building and I asked her if she had heard about what happened to Heather Heyer. She hadn’t. I explained the murder – it’s brutality and all the hate. I begged her forgiveness and asked her what it was like to be a minority, a person of color.

She said, “Mr. Kevin, I honestly don’t see color. You and me are just like sister and brother. We aren’t different.”

It was the most beautiful sentiment I think I have ever heard. It almost floored me. After she left, I don’t mind admitting, that beautiful thought made me cry. Yes. We are family.

The irony of tragedy is the beauty it reveals. The kindness. The revelation.

Heather Heyer died for something.

Heather Heyer died for family and we’ve all lost a sister. We should mourn for her life and be thankful for the sacrifice. She showed us love and respect. Her protest was effective. She revealed truths I had never seen.

God bless her.

(Editor’s Note: Two Virginia State Troopers also died Saturday. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protest. Their lives matter, too.)