Slain diplomat from River Forest was a girl with an adventurous mind

"She was a cross-country runner," Borsch said. "So think of her that way, those girls 14-18 years old, running alone. That particular sport often produces some of the best students. Perhaps it's all the discipline, the routine, the attention to detail when training."

Borsch told me of other parents who often ask him whether their child belongs at a top university.

"They ask, and you can't help but think of that ideal student, the kid walking around campus with two paperback books in their pockets, and they're not required reading," Borsch said.

"That's the kind of kid she was. She wasn't someone openly advertising how bright she was, but she was that bright. And being that bright, she lit up the room."

The memorial held Tuesday in the Fenwick auditorium was somber. Her teachers told the students that Smedinghoff was spurred to national service by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Anne would have been about 14, a freshman taking honors English and history, when al-Qaida terrorists — harbored by the same Taliban that would later kill her — used hijacked airliners to attack the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon.

She became deeply involved in the world of ideas, because she learned early on that ideas do have consequence. She became an officer in the school's International Relations Club. She loved mock trials. She had by all accounts a stellar career at Johns Hopkins, or she wouldn't have been accepted into the State Department.

And last December she returned to Fenwick, to speak to students about her career.

"Teachers are supposed to inspire students, but most teachers quickly realize the reverse is true," said Irene Drago, Smedinghoff's Spanish teacher. "Anne inspired me."

twitter @John_Kass