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Editorial: Two heroes’ bequest

Anne Smedinghoff 25 was killed Saturday April 6 2013 southern Afghanistan. | Phocourtesy Tom Smedinghoff

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was killed Saturday, April 6, 2013 in southern Afghanistan. | Photo courtesy of Tom Smedinghoff

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Updated: May 10, 2013 6:14AM

Chicago was shaken in recent days by the searing news that two of its idealistic young people had been killed senselessly on opposite sides of the world.

In Afghanistan, 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff of River Forest was slain by a suicide car bomber after she set out to bring textbooks to schoolchildren starved for knowledge. In New Orleans, 18-year-old Joseph Massenburg of Matteson was shot to death on a street just after he started a nine-month stint in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. He was a volunteer helping to make low-income housing more energy efficient in a city still digging out from Hurricane Katrina.

No words can make sense of such crushing losses for their families, friends and communities. But the life stories that the two young people left behind can bring us a message of hope, a statement that — in a world lurching from one catastrophe to another — a new generation stands ready to believe in the future, to change people’s lives.

Ms. Smedinghoff joined the Foreign Service after earning a degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University. During her years at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, she bicycled from Baltimore to San Francisco to raise money for cancer research. She volunteered for missions in perilous locations, including Afghanistan, where she recently served as a guide for Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr. Massenburg volunteered for many years at a City of Refuge Ministries, a Lawndale church where his parents both were pastors. His next goal had been to join the Army.

Ms. Smedinghoff and Mr. Massenburg accomplished much, but no doubt not all that they had in mind. They left their work, trying to make the world a better place, unfinished.

Then again, that’s a job that has no end.

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