United States Sec. of State John Kerry says foreign service officer Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was one of six Americans killed in two attacks.
Smedinghoff grew up in west suburban River Forest, Ill., and was on her second tour in Afghanistan. Last month, she aided Kerry on his visit there, and he says he remembers her well from that.
"I...want to emphasize that Anne was everything that was right about our foreign service. She was someone who worked hard so that others could live a better life," Kerry said.
Kerry descibed her as a "a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to school children, to bring them knowledge."
"It's like a nightmare, you think will go away and it's not," her father Tom Smedinghoff said to The Associated Press. "We keep saying to ourselves, we're just so proud of her, we take consolation in the fact that she was doing what she loved."
The attack also killed three U.S. service members, a U.S. civilian who worked for the U.S. Defense Department and an Afghan doctor when the group was struck by an explosion while traveling to a school in southern Afghanistan, according to coalition officials and the State Department.
Kerry is on a 10-day trip to Europe and Asia, and Sunday in Istanbul, he was calling out those responsible for the attack that killed Smedinghoff and others.
"Anne and those with her were attacked by Taliban terrorists who woke up... with a mission to destroy," said Kerry.
Smedinghoff had served in Venezuela previously.
She is the first American diplomat killed on the job since last year's September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya.
Her parents said in an emailed statement to The Washington Post that their daughter joined the foreign service straight out of a college.
Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff also said their daughter died doing what she loved.
"Working as a public diplomacy officer, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war," they said.
"It was a great adventure for her. She loved it," her father, Tom Smedinghoff, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "She was tailor-made for this job."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)