The abduction of 18-year-old Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig in February drew the city together in an outpouring of support in the wake of the bizarre crime. On Sunday, the city came together again as hundreds turned out for a public memorial service at West High School in Anchorage to honor the slain young woman.
The Koenig memorial service was not open to the press, but after the service concluded, attendees -- many of them clad in green or lime green, Samantha's favorite color -- stepped outside to the parking lot. There, Samantha's father James Koenig, wearing a leather vest with embroidered lime green angel wings on the back, released dozens of lime green balloons into the sky. Friends and family wept. Well-wishers who may not have even known Koenig but wanted to support the Koenig family, looked on. The Samoan 7th Day Adventist Youth Choir performed as the balloons drifted into the air.
The outpouring of support wasn't surprising, given the way the city of Anchorage responded to news of Koenig's abduction. Following her kidnapping, missing posters plastered with Samantha's face peppered storefronts, light poles, and filled the windows of other coffee stands around town. Her father held an emotional press conference, pleading for the return of his daughter. For two months, the public followed the evolving case closely, hoping for any shred of evidence that Samantha might still be alive.
Those hopes came to an end on April 2, when police divers found Samantha Koenig's body in Matanuska Lake. Police already had a man -- 34-year-old construction worker Israel Keyes --in custody. Keyes was charged with kidnapping and killing Koenig on Wednesday.
Sunday's memorial service came as Koenig's close family and friends -- and perhaps the entire city of Anchorage -- looked for closure by honoring her memory.