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Memorial in Kayla Mueller’s hometown honors her life, work

February 19, 2015

PRESCOTT, Arizona (AP) — Candles lit up the plaza of a central Arizona courthouse Wednesday as hundreds gathered to honor the American woman taken hostage by Islamic militants.

Kayla Mueller’s death earlier this month was confirmed by her family and U.S. officials. The 26-year-old international aid worker from Prescott had been captured in Syria in August 2013.

Friends, family and strangers wore pink ribbons on their shirts as they listened to speakers reflect on Mueller’s life and work. Strangers and friends dropped off cards and wrote messages for a scrapbook, calling Mueller and angel and saying she represented the best of humanity.

Mueller’s brother, Eric Mueller, encouraged the crowd to live as his first friend, best friend and sister did by reaching out to those who are suffering and give them a hug. His father, Carl Mueller, stood up and met him at the bottom of the stage and hugged him tightly.

“May God keep you from any more harm, any more hurt,” Eric Mueller said to his sister. “You are in his hands now. You do not have to suffer anymore. Only now will you be able to see how much you did and truly did for this world by looking down on it from above.”

Mueller’s parents did not speak to reporters, but they mingled afterward and embraced friends.

Mueller’s friends set up tables to accept canned goods and monetary donations for the needy, saying that’s what Mueller would have wanted.

Rebecca Dunn, who went to high school with Mueller in Prescott, said Mueller pushed her to Bible study and was active in music classes.

“She was a saint,” she said. “I’m hoping someone can take on her legacy. There was nothing she couldn’t do.”

Churches and community groups in Prescott organized the candlelight memorial. As it opened, a live band sang “He Who Began A Good Work in You,” a song that Mueller’s mother used to sing to her as a child.

The crowd lit candles toward the end of the ceremony on the courthouse plaza and seemingly followed Carl Mueller’s lead as he stretched his arm toward the sky.

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