(MCT) CHICAGO — Friends, community members and dignitaries filed into an Illinois funeral home Tuesday afternoon to honor Anne Smedinghoff, the U.S. diplomat who was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
More than 50 mourners formed a line long before the wake in Oak Park began, a line that wound past trees decorated with white ribbons.
“It’s a tight community,” said Carla Sloan, of River Forest, whose children went to school with Smedinghoff’s siblings. “We know everybody in the line and it’s such a tragedy. (Anne) was just such a bright star.”
Inside the funeral home, picture boards and slideshows showed Smedinghoff opening Christmas presents, throwing her cap at her graduation from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Irish dancing during her junior high years, Sloan said.
“You just see what a hole in their hearts they’ll have without Anne,” Sloan said.
Many who waited in line hugged. Some dabbed away tears as they emerged from the funeral home. Some wore American flag pins on the lapels of their suits.
The mourners included Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
Officials have said Smedinghoff, 25, was killed April 6 with four other Americans while delivering textbooks to children as the group traveled on foot in the southern province of Zabul.
A 2005 graduate of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Smedinghoff was a National Merit scholar, cross-country runner and member of the math team.
After attending college, she joined the foreign service, according to school officials and her parents.
Smedinghoff had volunteered for the assignment in Afghanistan, where she served as an assistant information officer. Before that she was assigned to Caracas, Venezuela.
On Tuesday, some waited in line for more than an hour to greet the family.
Vivien Barkidjija, who said she lives near the Smedinghoffs in River Forest, expected the large turnout.
“When you hear somebody is doing something so good and that life is taken so short, I think people said, ‘We have to be here,’ ” Barkidjija said.
“I have lived in this community for 10 years and I have never seen the entire community come together like it has this time.”
A funeral Mass is set for Wednesday at St. Luke Catholic Church in River Forest.
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