Knox College community remembers alum killed in terrorist attack

By WEEK Producer

January 20, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 11:28 AM CDT

GALESBURG, Ill. -- A deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan is hitting home for the Knox College community.

An alumnus was among the three Americans killed in a Taliban suicide bomb and gun attack on Friday.

During a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation at Knox College, President Teresa Amott reflected on the legacy of Lexie Kamerman.

The 27-year-old Chicago native was a member of the American University of Afghanistan. She was among the 20 killed in the attack at a popular downtown Kabul restaurant.

The area is close to many western embassies including those of the United States and Britain. Afghan authorities said a suicide bomber first detonated his explosives, then two gunmen ran into the restaurant shooting.

The Taliban has accepted responsibility saying it was in reaction to an Afghan military operation earlier in the week.

Family and Friends here in Illinois are mourning the loss of Kamerman. She was described by many as "smart, strong, stubborn and kind."

"It is just insane to know that somebody is a victim of that,” said Knox College Alum Brandon Paraharm. “They are there and they have a really great heart."

"Not that many people are out there doing that sort of thing. I definitely kind of admire her for what she did,” said Junior Matt Song.

Many of the current students at Knox College did not know Lexie Kamerman personally, but it is clear her work will always be admired.

The Chicago native graduated from the college in 2008 with a Bachelors degree in environmental studies.

Those who worked with Kamerman all spoke of the same characteristic, her love for life.

"You knew she was in the room in a very positive way,” said Environmental Studies Professor Peter Schwartz. “She didn't draw attention to herself, but you knew because the way she carried herself."

Kamerman was working at American University in Afghanistan, where she helped young women find their place in Afghan society.

Professor Peter Schwartzman worked closely with Kamerman in the Environmental Studies Department. He said future projects will always have her passionate influence.

Kamerman was also known for her dynamic play on the water polo team. Her coach, Jonathan Powers, was reluctant to speak on behalf of Kamerman, whom he developed a close bond with.

Powers said he had lunch with his former player once or twice a year. They even kept in contact through email while she was working in Afghanistan.

"The thought of danger never entered any of our email exchanges. It was always about students and the opportunity,” he said.

Powers said he got the tragic news right before a swim meet.

"I'm just really glad I got to spend my Saturday in a pool,” he said.

Two other Americans were killed in Friday's Taliban attack, Basra Hassan, a UNICEF nutrition specialist and Dr. Alexandros Petersen, a member of the American University of Afghanistan's political science faculty.

Lexie Kamerman is the second Chicago-area woman killed in Afghanistan over the past year.