Smedinghoff was an up-and-coming employee of the State Department who garnered praise from the highest ranks. She was to finish her Afghanistan assignment as a press officer in July. Already fluent in Spanish, she was gearing up to learn Arabic, first for a year in the U.S. and then in Cairo, before a two-year assignment in Algeria.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday at a news conference in Turkey that Smedinghoff was "vivacious, smart" and "capable." Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago.
He also described Smedinghoff as "a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to school children, to bring them knowledge."
Her father said they knew the assignments were dangerous, though she spent most of her time at the U.S. Embassy compound. Trips outside were in heavily armored convoys — as was Saturday's trip that killed five Americans, including Smedinghoff. The U.S. Department of Defense did not release the names of the others who died: three soldiers and one employee.
"It's like a nightmare, you think will go away and it's not," he said. "We keep saying to ourselves, we're just so proud of her, we take consolation in the fact that she was doing what she loved."
Friends remembered her Sunday for her charity work too.
Smedinghoff participated in a 2009 cross-country bike ride for The 4K for Cancer — part of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults — according to the group. She served on the group's board of directors after the ride from Baltimore to San Francisco.
"She was an incredible young woman. She was always optimistic," said Ryan Hanley, a founder of the group. "She always had a smile on her face and incredible devotion to serving others."
Johns Hopkins officials mourned her death in a letter on Sunday to students, faculty and alumni. Smedinghoff graduated in 2009. In the letter, University President Ronald J. Daniels praised her work on the symposium, her involvement in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and her involvement outside campus too.
"Her selfless action for others was nothing new," he wrote.
Funeral arrangements for Smedinghoff are pending.