River Forest responds to the death of Anne Smedinghoff | Bleader

River Forest responds to the death of Anne Smedinghoff


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Anne Smedinghoff
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  • Anne Smedinghoff
Our response to some journalism is simply that it is appropriate. For the past few days the sadness of Roger Ebert had screened us from the tragedy of Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old diplomat who died last Saturday in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan. But her memorial service was Tuesday, the press was there, and John Kass's column began on the front page of the Tribune. Just as that placement felt right, so did the tack Kass took: writing about her as the exceptional Fenwick High School student she'd been just a few years earlier . . .

I've written that much and don't have much more to say. It'll be a brief post, unlike most I write. It'll go up on the Reader's website in midafternoon. But I'm interrupted by a ringing phone.

A friend in Oak Park had heard that the CPS school where my daughter works has a program that provides every student in the school with a book to take home and read over the summer. But they have to find the books.

My friend wants us to know there may be books available in River Forest, where First Presbyterian Church has just collected dozens of boxes of children's books donated in the name of Anne Smedinghoff, who grew up there. She gives me a number, I make some calls, and I learn that a campaign that began with the Smedinghoff's neighbors, who were determined to cover their block with white ribbons by the time the family returned from Afghanistan, quickly was expanded by Saint Luke Catholic Church, the family's church, into a campaign to cover the entire town. And just as quickly it spread to First Presbyterian, which on its parking lot Monday evening gave away ribbons and miniature flags in exchange for children's books. Anne had been delivering textbooks to schoolchildren when she died.

I'm told River Forest is a sight to see. There are white ribbons everywhere.

One woman I talk to whose son went to Fenwick High with Anne Smedinghoff says she was "so beyond extraordinary." She urges me to read the story about Anne on the front page of the Tribune. It's "really nice."

It is. A high school student full of promise belongs to her hometown in a way in which the adult making her way in the world cannot. Until she comes home.

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