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Family: ‘Free spirit’ Kayla Mueller was selfless inspiration

LISTEN: Family, friends of Kayla Mueller speak

PHOENIX — Family and friends of Kayla Mueller, an Arizona woman who died in the Middle East after being kidnapped by the Islamic State, talked about her life and her spirit Tuesday and said the world wants to be more like her.

“The world wants to be more like (Mueller), and if that is her legacy, and the footprint that she leaves on the world, then that is a wonderful thing,” her aunt, Lori Lyon, told media assembled in Mueller’s hometown, Prescott, Arizona.

The Rev. Kathleen Day, who leads Northern Arizona University student groups once attended by Muller, said she followed the 26-year-old’s journey in Syria via social media.

“I would read her posts and it was really like keeping vigil because it was so difficult to read about the horror that was happening,” she said.

Day said Mueller was doing simple things to help Syrians — whether it was buying clothes or helping refugees find a home.

“What was so extraordinary about (Mueller) was she did ordinary things to extraordinary measures,” she said.

Eryn Street, a friend of Mueller’s, said empathy was Mueller’s greatest strength.

“I’m not yet sure how to live in a world without (Mueller), but I do know that we’re all living in a better world because of her,” she said.

Lyons said Mueller went to Syria because it was her calling.

“She was a free spirit, always standing up for those who were suffering and wanting to be their voice,” she said.

Mueller was captured by ISIS in Syria. During her captivity, she attempted to teach her guards origami and sang songs with other captors.

“(Mueller) has touched the heart of the world,” Lyons said. “The world grieves with us, the world mourns with us.”