Friends and former classmates gathered Saturday at Johns Hopkins University to remember Anne Smedinghoff, a Foreign Service officer who was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan earlier this month, sharing stories of a too-short life marked by adventure.
As photographs of Smedinghoff in front of monuments and ruins around the world flashed by on projector screens, friends recalled her various escapades, including a coast-to-coast cycling trip, which saw the young woman eat a live bug to fulfill an item on a scavenger hunt list.
Smedinghoff, who grew up in River Forest in Cook County, Ill., graduated from Hopkins with a degree in international studies. A scholarship fund named for her has been established at the university.
The 25-year-old was on her second foreign posting and had been in Afghanistan since last July. She was killed April 6, along with three American soldiers and civilian employee of the Defense Department, when their convoy was struck by a car bomb. The group was delivering textbooks to a school, and friends of Smedinghoff have started a drive to gather books for Baltimore public school children in her memory.
It was shortly after her graduation in 2009 that Smedinghoff and a group of students embarked on the cross-country cycle trek, known as the Hopkins 4K.
Along the way Smedinghoff maintained a lively Twitter account, excerpts from which were shared at the memorial service. She shared insights about Illinois' two seasons — road construction and winter — and the correlation between location and baked-bean quality — it gets better as you head west.
Smedinghoff, who had also worked as a diplomat in Venezuela, gone sky diving in Arizona, and been caught in a Jordanian sandstorm on another biking adventure, expressed one regret, her college roommate Elisabeth Meinert said: not becoming an astronaut.
But the two young women made up for it one time in Washington by sneaking brownies into the National Air and Space Museum, Meinert said.
Despite her taste for adventure, one friend described Smedinghoff as an introvert, and others recalled her kindness and consideration for others.
"She was always able to pull the best out of everyone," said Paige Cantlin.
Pamela Lachman, another college friend, described how she and Smedinghoff worked together to organize a foreign affairs symposium at Hopkins. The pair wanted to host Paul Rusesabagina, whose story was dramatized in the film Hotel Rwanda, but Lachman initially balked at his fee.
Smedinghoff reminded Lachman of the hundreds of lives he saved during the genocide, Meinert said, and asked "Who cares what his honorarium is?"
After Smedinghoff's death, Lachman said she had met the Foreign Service officer who was being sent to Afghanistan to carry on her duties. The new officer was nervous, so Lachman said she shared stories of Smedinghoff's work and how much she had enjoyed herself.
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"If you have one-tenth of that, you're going to have a great time," Lachman said.
The service was interspersed with poems special to Smedinghoff and composed specially after her death. One was constructed from fragments of friends' grief-stricken posts on Facebook.
"I intend to deliver you at any moment / always smiling greater than the world," it read in part.
The memorial culminated in the entire group of friends turning on battery-powered candles and reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Success."
"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. / This is to have succeeded," they said as one.