Friends and family honor victims of Hot Yoga shooting, 4 years later
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Wednesday night, more than 100 people gathered at Woodward Plaza to honor the memories of 61-year-old doctor Nancy Van Vessem and 21-year-old FSU student Maura Binkley.
One of those in attendance was Haley Simard, Maura’s best friend.
“We were close enough that we even had discussions like, ‘I don’t know what I’d ever do if I lost you,’” Simard said. “I was kind of forced to figure that out.”
Simard says she’s still trying to figure things out and that she’s in the process of healing after her best friend was murdered in 2018.
“She was my roommate,” Simard said. “She was my best friend I’ve ever had. I didn’t think that I could make it through something that traumatic. But I did, and I have to.”
On the four-year anniversary of Maura’s death, friends, family, and sisters from Maura’s sorority came to honor her life.
“Radicalized hatred is an existential threat,” said Maura’s father, Jeff Binkley, at the memorial.
Binkley has spent the last four years trying to turn tragedy into an opportunity for change.
He created a nonprofit called Maura’s Voice, which helps fund research addressing hate crimes against women.
“Love is hard work,” Jeff Binkley said. “But as Nancy and Maura exemplified in their lives, it is the most important work we can do.”
After the memorial, Maura’s sorority sisters used chalk to cover the ground at Woodward Plaza with messages of love.
“I think she’d probably laugh,” Simard said. “Because she always talked about how she didn’t want to be famous. And I mean, she is now in this community.”
Simard wrote her own chalk message, describing Maura as “beautiful, supportive, hilarious, and selfless.”
“It’s still tough not having that person to go to when really anything big happens in life,” Simard said. “But I just, you know, wish I got to tell her how important she was to me one more time. I think she knew. But it’d be good to know for sure that she knew.”
At Wednesday’s memorial, Jeff Binkley announced a new initiative called “Florida State United: One Voice Against Hate,” which will work to combat hate crimes and prevent a tragedy like the Hot Yoga shooting from ever happening again.
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