PRETORIA, South Africa – South Africa is honoring her for helping it overcome the legacy of apartheid, but Linda Biehl of Newport Beach (California) says she is simply doing what any parent would after the death of a child: trying to find meaning in loss.
Today is Biehl's 65th birthday. Tomorrow, President Thabo Mbeki will grant her one of his nation's highest honors.
The Southern Californian's then-26-year-old daughter, Amy, was stabbed and stoned to death in the waning days of apartheid in a township near Cape Town where she was studying how women were contributing to change in South Africa. Amy Biehl was white, and her black assailants claimed the attack was part of the war on white rule.
Linda Biehl and her husband Peter, who died in 2002, forgave the four men convicted in their daughter's 1993 death, and embraced the truth and reconciliation process on which South Africa embarked after white rule ended in 1994. Amy Biehl's attackers were granted amnesty after confessing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by former Cape Town Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two of them now work for a charity the Biehls founded that provides training in arts, sports and other areas to young South Africans.
Linda Biehl hopes working with her foundation will mean a better future for at least some of the generation that embraced the call for liberation before education.