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The mother of a 20-year-old Newport Beach woman killed in South Africa in 1993 says Nelson Mandela taught her family a lesson in forgiveness that continues to this day. Vikki Vargas reports from San Marcos for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2013.
As the world remembers anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, a Southern California family is honoring a historic figure who played a very personal role in their lives.
Linda Biehl said after her 26-year-old daughter was killed in South Africa two decades ago, Mandela taught her that no matter how deep the pain, everyone needs to heal.
Amy Biehl was a Fulbright Scholar and at her Stanford graduation wrote the words "Free Mandela" on her mortarboard. Her mother said Amy wanted the same thing Mandela and countless South Africans want: equality in South Africa.
But she did not live to see it.
The Newport Beach woman was killed by a mob in 1993, as she drove through Guguletu, targeted because she was white.
“They threw a brick in (her car), smashed the windows and then she was stunned but she managed to get out and of course her friends said, ‘Run, Amy, run!'” Linda Biehl said.
The young woman who had hoped to make a difference in the deeply divided nation had been stabbed to death.
The men accused of killing her confessed and then were granted amnesty through the newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The idea came from Mandela's hope that his country could reunite, after apartheid – exactly what Amy Biehl believed as well.
“It was definitely his approach to negotiating and how you had to work with your so-called enemy, and that was very much what Amy talked about,” Biehl said.
The Biehls were with Mandela when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from then-President Bill Clinton.
After their loved one’s death, the Biehl family created the Amy Biehl Foundation to empower young Africans in South Africa. Two of the men convicted of killing Amy currently work there.
“We really do have the spirit of hope that we can aspire to do maybe something more than we think we are,” Biehl said.
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