Family and friends held a candle-lit vigil for Kayla Mueller, the U.S. aid worker who died while being held by Islamic State militants in Syria.
The event, “Remembering Kayla: A community candlelight memorial,” was held in her hometown of Prescott, in the Southwestern state of Arizona, on Wednesday, and was organized by local churches and community groups.
Mueller's brother, Eric Mueller, encouraged the crowd to live as the person he called his first friend, best friend and sister did -- by reaching out to those who are suffering and give them a hug.
“You were my first friend, my best friend, my only sister. My heart aches for you and what you went through. I have a hole in my soul that will never be replaced. I miss you. I love you. I cannot believe you are gone from my life,” Eric Mueller said at the vigil.
'Keep you from harm'
“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,” he said.
His father, Carl Mueller, met him at the bottom of the stage and hugged him tightly.
Mueller's parents did not speak to reporters, but they mingled afterward and embraced friends.
Rebecca Dunn, who went to high school with Kayla Mueller in Prescott, said Kayla pushed her to Bible study and was active in music classes.
“She was a saint,” she told The Associated Pres. “I'm hoping someone can take on her legacy. There was nothing she couldn't do.”
Abducted in 2013
Kayla Mueller, 26, was abducted in 2013 while leaving a hospital run by the Spanish branch of Doctors without Borders in Aleppo, in northern Syria. Her death was confirmed February 10, but the circumstances of how and when she died remain unclear.
Before her abduction, Mueller worked for a Turkish relief agency on the Syrian border, first traveling to that region in 2012. She previously had volunteered for schools and relief groups elsewhere in the Mideast and India.
Kayla Mueller was the last-known American hostage held by Islamic State, which controls wide areas of Syria and Iraq.
Also Thursday, Kayla Mueller's Syrian boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, in an interview with The Guardian, gave further details of the day they were both abducted in 2013. He was later released.
“I think there was a snitch in the hospital," Alkhani, 33, is quoted as saying, although he had no proof that someone had told Islamic State militants an American was at the Aleppo hospital.
Material for this report came from Reuters and AP.