Andrew Pochter once spent hours on a South Carolina beach at midnight, watching a loggerhead sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand.
“For two hours, I share the miracle of her giving birth,” Pochter wrote in a college application essay.
David B. McIlhiney, the chaplain at the Blue Ridge School in Charlottesville, read those words four years ago when Pochter was in high school there. “Right away, I knew there was something special, even something holy, about this young man,” he said Friday morning at Pochter’s funeral at Washington National Cathedral.
On June 28, not quite two months after his 21st birthday, Pochter was killed during anti-government demonstrations in Egypt. The Chevy Chase man was stabbed by a protester while watching a demonstration as a bystander, according to a family statement.
Pochter, who was a gifted foreign-language student and rising junior at Kenyon College in Ohio, had gone to Egypt this summer to teach English to young people as part of an internship with the nonprofit group America-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST).
“He was so eager to understand the whole world,” McIlhiney told more than 700 people gathered for the service, including Mohamed M. Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, and AMIDEAST President Theodore H. Kattouf, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Syria. “We can learn from Andrew, letting his great soul touch our own.”
Fluent in Arabic, Pochter had spent time in Morocco between high school and college and planned to spend the spring in Jordan.
Pochter’s family has said in a statement that he “went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East. He had studied in the region, loved the culture, and planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding.”
Pochter’s father, Ted, worked for the District’s Parks and Recreation Department for 20 years. Pochter’s mother, Elizabeth, is an administrator for policy and programs at the National Gallery of Art. His sister, Emily, is the executive assistant to Democratic strategists Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen at SKDKnickerbocker.
Pochter was active in a Jewish student group at college, and he was a co-manager of the Hillel Houseprogram center last year and would have continued in his position in the fall.
At his funeral, Rabbi Hannah L. Goldstein of Temple Sinai in Northwest Washington read a Jewish prayer, but she noted that the Kaddish Yatom is about life.
“These sacred words do not mention death or mourning,” she said, urging Pochter’s friends and family to follow in his footsteps.
Since Pochter was 16, he and his sister, Emily, had volunteered at Camp Opportunity, a week-long summer camp for at-risk kids 6 to 12. Each camper is assigned an individual counselor for the week.
Emily Pochter read a letter her brother had written a few weeks before his death to his camper, Justin, who was about to “graduate” from the camp. In the note, Pochter described his life in the Egyptian city of Alexandria: spotty water and electricity, his Egyptian friends, the political revolution. He stressed to his young camper the importance of surrounding himself with good friends.
“I hope that you will never stop your curiosity for the beautiful things in life,” Pochter wrote. “Go on hikes in forests, canyons and mountains, go fishing, research wildlife, and get out of city life if you can. Surround yourself with good friends who care about your future. Fall in love with someone. Get your heart broken. And then move on and fall in love again. Breathe life every day like it is your first. Find something that you love to do and never stop doing that unless you find something else you love more.”