Easy Nofomela and Ntobeko Peni began working for the foundation. Easy still works there today. Ntobeko (pronounced, Tobecko) gleaned every bit of business wisdom from Peter and became a successful entrepreneur who started a laundromat, driving service, and more.
“As time went on we became very close,” she continued. “I’m very proud of Easy and Ntobeko. They traveled to America with me to speak at conferences and it’s been very positive. That is Amy’s gift to all of us—she brought us all together.”
“I don’t know how they found it in their hearts to forgive us, but I can tell you that it has greatly enriched my life,” Ntobeko told a reporter in 2001. “I will never forget the kindness they have shown me when they had every reason to hate me.”
“They call me ‘Makulu’,” Linda laughed, explaining it means grandmother. “Young people here were really looking for parenting during the struggle. They kind of adopted us into their village—it was pretty amazing.”
Perhaps the most touching moment for Linda, whose husband died in 2002, was the time Ntobeko asked her to wear a traditional Xhosa outfit to his wedding.
“He never really knew his mother so when he asked me to be ‘that person’, I realized he was really asking me to be his family. Someone did up my blonde hair in little puffs, and it was very joyful,” she recalled fondly.
Many other lives were touched by the Biehls’s selfless dedication. Victor West, the ambulance driver who attended Amy had a very hard time dealing with her death because people accused him of not saving her. It lead to substance abuse problems until he finally told mental health officials that he would like to meet her parents.
They had dinner with him, and asked what they could do to help. Victor said he taught first aid and maybe he could do that for the Foundation. So they launched a program of teaching CPR and first aid to thousands of township residents in schools, prisons and community groups—and Victor never touched alcohol since that day.
“It grew so much that he and his wife then started their own program called Bounce Back,” says Linda. “That was our hope, that people would find their own skills and confidence and go out and do these things on their own. As I look back, that is our real success story.”
Friends and colleagues gathered on August 25 in the rain and cold, with Linda and members of the community, to sing songs and mark the quarter-century since Amy’s death. They gathered on the road where the U.S. State Department had placed a large marker, describing her as a tireless human rights activist.
“As much as it was a bad thing that happened, everyone drives by it every day. My husband and I drove by it for years,” explained Linda. “We realized that it’s a part of the community and we wanted to not make it a bad or sad place, and thought, ‘Let’s make it a place of hope.’”
Most certainly, there would have been no hope without forgiveness: “We were raised in a Congregational Church when Peter and I were growing up in Illinois, and he taught Christian ethics to junior high kids. If people are really living their Christian values—or their Muslim values or Jewish values—there is always the element of forgiveness, but often people aren’t able to live up to that value.”
“It’s one of the things that was important to us, that we not be hypocritical; it was important that we don’t say one thing and do something else. It was important to try to do what we believe, and act out in a positive way.”
Even though Linda doesn’t run the foundation anymore and she spends most of her time in California and Florida with her children and their families, she still travels and gives speeches—and enjoys coming back to South Africa. It is the place where Amy feels most alive to her.
“I still get recognized around town by a lot of the Township folks, which is kind of fun. To hear, ‘Oh, you’re back…’ it’s heartwarming.”
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