Nearly 1,000 people including relatives, friends and prominent Florida politicians attended a memorial service on Friday for Steven Sotloff, who was killed by Islamic State militants, recalling him as a journalist committed to revealing the truth.
“I’m so proud of my son for living his dream,” Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, told those in attendance at the Jewish Temple Beth Am.
“Most people live a lifetime and never find fulfillment,” she added, remembering her 31-year-old son as inquisitive and outgoing as a child.
The Islamic State released a video on Tuesday showing the killing of Sotloff, the second American journalist it has beheaded in its confrontation with the United States over American air strikes in Iraq on the militant group’s forces.
“I have lost my son and my best friend, but I know his passing will change the world,” said Sotloff’s father, Arthur, making his first public remarks since his son’s death.
Speakers at the two-hour memorial service recalled Sotloff as a man who displayed empathy and courage. As a freelance reporter, he wrote about the hardships faced by average people caught up in Middle East conflicts, said his mourners, remembering his passion for exposing the truth.
Sotloff was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013 after he drove across the border from Turkey.
“Steven was committed to truth and revealing it,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, speaking to the crowd. “He has revealed the true nature of evil in the world today.”
Rubio sat alongside Florida Governor Rick Scott, a fellow Republican, as well as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist during the ceremony.
Sotloff first fell in love with the Middle East during trips and school in Israel, where he eventually became a citizen, according to friends and family. He spoke Arabic and traveled the region writing for magazines including Time and Foreign Policy.
Others shed light on Sotloff’s more rambunctious side. Chris Castle recalled taking a shot of tequila with Sotloff after receiving his approval to marry the journalist’s sister.
His uncle and godfather, Lou Bleiman, described a time he ran away from Valley Forge Military Academy and called for a ride from a telephone booth. “Steven had to march up and down in the rain and he didn’t like it,” he said.
Dozens of cousins and other friends echoed a prepared statement released by the family earlier this week, calling Sotloff torn between his comfortable life in the United States and the Arab world.