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Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, holds a photo of Bro's mother and her daughter, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. Heyer was killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when police say a man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators protesting the white nationalist rally. Bro said that she is going to bare her soul to fight for the cause that her daughter died for. (AP Photo/Joshua Replogle)

From the pulpit and through the pews Sunday morning, applause consumed Emanuel AME Church as the pastor introduced the unassuming visiting couple.

Mark Heyer and Susan Bro — parents of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed last year when a white nationalist demonstrator plowed into a crowd of protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. — held each other close and took in the scene of a few hundred strangers praising them.

They sat in the same church where a self-avowed white nationalist nearly three years earlier had killed nine worshipers in a hate crime that rattled the Charleston community.

The Rev. Eric Manning said he hoped the parents would become inspired by the Palm Sunday service they were about to witness, so that it may fuel their efforts to speak out against such injustices.

They were in Charleston after being selected by the South Carolina chapter of the National Action Network to receive one of the organization's Triumph Awards, which are presented annually to those who have made notable contributions to their communities through civil rights advocacy, the arts and business.

The organization planned to recognize the award winners at a ceremony in Summerville on Sunday evening. Heyer and Bro were invited to attend the morning worship service at Emanuel while they were in town, they said.

"It's an honor to be here (at Emanuel)," Bro told churchgoers as she implored them to remain proactive in efforts to bring visibility to civil rights issues. 

On a floor below the church's sanctuary, Dylann Roof had gunned down the nine black worshipers during a Bible study in June 2015. Like the death of Heather Heyer, the killings drew international attention and ignited a conversation about race relations in the United States.

Attendees offered condolences, and Bro spoke with them about taking a stance in their own communities. She insisted that her slain daughter was "one of many."

"This is a call for all of us to step up," Bro told those who came to greet her after the Palm Sunday service. "Heather's motto that she adopted and lived by was that if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. So I want people to wake up, pay attention to what's going on (and) pay attention to a lot of things that are not right in the world." 

Since their daughter's death in August, the grieving parents have remained vocal about the same causes their daughter died speaking for, striving to find purpose in the killing.

"I didn't want to give her up," Bro said. "But if I have to give her up, we're going to make it count for something."

Just before the end of the service, Bro walked from her pew to the pulpit of the old church. There, she kneeled and prayed.

Reach Michael Majchrowicz at 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

Michael Majchrowicz is a reporter covering crime and public safety. He previously wrote about courts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Hoosier native, he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.