Last Saturday, Austin news outlets reported the tragic story of an unidentified jogger who had been struck and killed Friday evening outside a downtown parking garage. After her identity became known and tributes filled the Internet, many of those outlets came back for follow-up stories, seeking to fill in the picture of who this young woman was and why so many people reacted so emotionally to her death.

Hopefully I can help explain what made that young woman so remarkable. Her name was Brianna Nichole Becker. She was my intern and my friend.

By the spring of 2008, the Foundation’s internship program had grown to the point where I was given a communications intern. I had met Brianna through Young Conservatives of Texas – a group she had joined at the University of Texas and of which I was a former state chairman – and recruited her to come over and work with me. Her work product was so strong and her work ethic so reliable that I would have kept her that summer had she not had that great offer lined up with the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute in Washington, DC. She made such an impression on them that they did a spotlight feature on her.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to prod Brianna to return for a second semester that fall. We even had internal discussions about creating a part-time communications position for her long-term, but as much as she enjoyed the communications work, her passion was for the law and we supported her decision to pursue that.

Brianna provided critical support during the early stages of developing our social media program. Her writing skill and philosophical grounding were such that I trusted her with writing many of the scripts for our “Lone Star Lessons,” a daily radio commentary that airs on KVCE-AM in Dallas/Fort Worth. She was someone our other interns looked to for leadership, and brought a positive energy that rubbed off on the entire office.

Even after leaving TPPF, Brianna continued to support our activities as a regular attendee of our Policy Primers and other functions. She spoke alongside our Elizabeth Young at last month’s kickoff of the Coalition for American Traditions and Ethics – the Associated Press’ Austin bureau chief commented to me this morning how impressive she found Brianna’s presentation.

She was a cheerful presence in all situations, a friend to all who knew her, and a passionate and articulate supporter of liberty. Those of us who knew her and worked with her are devastated that she has been taken from us way too soon.

Last Thursday, we hosted an event at the AT&T conference center with award-winning journalist John Stossel. While we routinely make arrangements for traditional media to cover our functions, this was our first time to have a blog row for social media activists. Brianna was the first to accept my invitation.

After the event, she had a nice visit with our president and other staff, and I was able to introduce her to Mr. Stossel as the best intern I ever had. One of the few points of solace I can take right now is that I got to tell her that before she left us.

Many have paid tribute to Brianna online – from Gov. Rick Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs, to her YCT and College Republican contemporaries, even people who had only met her at the Stossel event. I particularly recommend Robbie Cooper’s post on UrbanGrounds.

But our mutual friend, Michele Samuelson, highlighted Brianna’s very last message on Twitter, sent shortly before setting out on that fateful jog: “I never wanted something as much as I want tomorrow to be the real deal, the one and only time I need to take that test.” (Brianna and Elizabeth were scheduled to take the LSAT together on Saturday morning.)

To which Michele responded, “In an odd way, her wish was granted. We know where she is – dancing in heaven, with her Savior. That really is the real deal.”

God bless you, Brianna. We’ll always value your friendship and we’ll see you when we get there.

– David Guenthner