All she wanted to do was help those impoverished and forgotten by war. Kayla Jean Mueller gave her life in that effort, as her family announced today in the past hour. They have released a statement confirming her death:

“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Mueller’s parents said in a statement. “Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.”

The statement did not elaborate on how it had learned of Mueller’s death or the circumstances of her death.

The White House immediately issued a statement of its own:

It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller.  On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family – her parents, Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric and his family – and all of those who loved Kayla dearly.  At this time of unimaginable suffering, the country shares in their grief.

Kayla dedicated her life to helping others in need at home and around the world.  In Prescott, Arizona, she volunteered at a women’s shelter and worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic.  She worked with humanitarian organizations in India, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, compelled by her desire to serve others.  Eventually, her path took her to Turkey, where she helped provide comfort and support to Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes during the war.  Kayla’s compassion and dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on.

Kayla represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms that we Americans enjoy, and that so many others strive for around the world.  She said:  “Here we are.  Free to speak out without fear of being killed, blessed to be protected by the same law we are subjected to, free to see our families as we please, free to cross borders and free to disagree.  We have many people to thank for these freedoms and I see it as an injustice not to use them to their fullest.”

Kayla Mueller used these freedoms she so cherished to improve the lives of others.  In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world.  She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures, inspiring all those who fight, each in their own way, for what is just and what is decent.  No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death.

ISIL is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group whose actions stand in stark contrast to the spirit of people like Kayla.  On this day, we take comfort in the fact that the future belongs not to those who destroy, but rather to the irrepressible force of human goodness that Kayla Mueller shall forever represent.

ISIS had claimed that coalition airstrikes had killed Mueller earlier, but ISIS has almost always lied about the status of its hostages. They tried to get Jordan to bargain a prisoner swap for its pilot, but balked when Jordan demanded proof of life — because, as it turns out, they’d butchered him by immolation weeks earlier. Given that, death in the airstrike might have been a blessing for the young woman.

For now, though, rather than mull over the exact circumstances of her death, let’s remember Kayla Jean Mueller in life. Michael Walsh profiled her last week for Yahoo News:

Mueller moved to Turkey in 2012 to work for an international aid organization called Support to Life, the Washington Post reported. She was helping Syrian families who were fleeing to Turkey in order to escape the violence. …

Before she was kidnapped, Mueller also worked in refugee camps for people who were scarred by the horrors of war through “psycho-social interventions,” according her hometown paper.

She drew, painted, and played with the children in an attempt to give them a safe, nurturing environment that was a far cry from the chaotic cities and villages they had left behind.

Through another aid group, she also helped Syrian women in refugee camps develop skills to support themselves, the paper reported.

Daily Courier article from 2007 said she was also involved in the Save Darfur Coalition while she was a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“I love cultures and language and learning about people’s cultures,” she said at the time.

Kayla was, as President Obama said today, the best of America, and of humanity. Her life was taken at least indirectly by its dregs, in a reminder that not all justice in this world is immediate or perfect. In 26 years, she packed more goodness and service than ISIS could ever hope to degrade through their cowardly exploitation of her. Rest in peace and Godspeed, Kayla Jean.

Update: The airstrikes ISIS claimed killed Mueller were not specifically US sorties, so I changed “US” to “coalition.”

Update: Contemptible:

Don’t be surprised to see a video emerge soon.

Update: Via the Washington Post and HuffPo, the Mueller family has released a letter Kayla managed to smuggle out in November:

“I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden. I have asked these women to support you, please seek their advice. If you have not done so already xxx [redacted] can contact xxx [redacted] who may have a certain lever of experience with these people. None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able and I have a lot of fight left inside of me.

“I am not breaking down and I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says “the part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, without your hope there would be nothing left.” aka – The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong that is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me. Continue to pray as will I and by God’s will, we will be together soon.

All my everything, Kayla”

May we all be united with Kayla, in spirit in this life, and in God’s love in the next.