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Fenwick remembers slain U.S. diplomat as woman of ‘quiet intelligence’

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Updated: May 11, 2013 6:29AM

Three days after U.S. diplomat Anne Smedinghoff died in the smoking chaos of a car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan, the “champion for peace and justice” was remembered quietly Tuesday 7,000 miles away in an Oak Park auditorium filled with students in navy blazers and Dominican friars wearing traditional white habits.

“Serenely beautiful — that is how I will always remember Anne Smedinghoff,” said Irene Drago, who taught the future diplomat AP Spanish at Fenwick High School.

Drago’s voice quavered as she spoke of Smedinghoff in her freshman year in 2001 — as a student with a “quiet intelligence” and an “obvious gift for foreign language.”

Smedinghoff’s brother and sister — both Fenwick graduates — as well as her aunt sat in the front row of the auditorium for the Mass held in the slain diplomat’s honor.

Drago was also the moderator of the school’s International Relations Club, of which Smedinghoff was a member.

“For one so young, she seemed so focused and determined to unravel the big problems,” Drago said. “At the same time, she had the gentleness and patience required to assemble and send care packages to our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Drago recalled Smedinghoff, who joined the foreign service after earning a degree in international relations at John Hopkins University, coming back to Fenwick just a few months before her death. Smedinghoff was there to talk to students about her career, which also included a stint in Venezuela.

Drago remembered seeing the young diplomat on the day she returned — a young woman in high heels and a tailored gray suit.

“As a student in my Spanish AP class, Anne was never one to add fashion accents to the hopelessly out-of-style Fenwick uniform,” Drago said. “Nor did she fuss with hair or makeup on a daily basis. She was a serious student with serious thoughts. But that young woman standing in the classroom doorway was truly breathtaking.”

History teacher Jerry Lordan urged the students in the auditorium to, like Smedinghoff, “embrace your call to be a hero” and in an individual way complete Smedinghoff’s unfinished work.

“It’s important for us to remember that Anne was not a saint while she was here at Fenwick High School,” Lordan said. “Anne was a typical friar. She danced on this stage ... she ran in cross country, she competed on the math team. ... A typical friar is a person who takes their ordinary gifts and does extraordinary things with them. Nothing that Anne did is beyond your capacity.”

Smedinghoff, 25, was one of six Americans killed Saturday in Afghanistan and the first U.S. diplomat slain there since the war began in 2001.

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