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Family mourns American teacher's death in Japan

Courtesy of the Anderson family

The body of Taylor Anderson, left, a 24-year-old teacher, has been found in Japan, her family says. She was last seen in Ishinomaki, Japan, on March 11 after the earthquake.

An  American family  was in mourning Monday after  learning that their daughter and sibling, a teacher and lifelong student of Japanese culture,  had been found dead in Japan –- the first known American victim of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Taylor Anderson, a 24-year-old from Richmond, Va., had lived in Japan since August 2008. She was last seen after the powerful earthquake struck Japan on March 11, riding her bike away from the school where she taught after helping to get her students home.

“It is with deep regret that we inform you that earlier this morning we received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Japan that they had found our beloved Taylor's body,” the Anderson family wrote in a statement. “We would like to thank all those (whose)  prayers and support have carried us through this crisis.  Please continue to pray for all who remain missing and for the people of Japan.”

 Anderson’s family, who had mounted a long-distance search for Anderson, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But a Facebook poster, who gave his name as Ramon Badcock, said he met Anderson in Japan and will remember her positive spirit.

"She was of a rare breed of people, always happy and positive, kind and generous, with a smile that seemed to go on forever," he wrote in an email to msnbc.com. "I will mourn, but more importantly I will celebrate her life, for it was a beautiful life and I know she would prefer that."

Until Monday's announcement, none of the estimated 50,000-plus Americans living in or visiting Japan when the quake hit had been confirmed killed. The U.S. State Department said it was seeking further information regarding the death.

Most of Taylor’s friends and colleagues in the JET Programme (the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme), stayed at their schools overnight after the quake, but not Taylor, said her sister, Julia Anderson.

Courtesy of the Anderson family

Taylor Anderson with her parents, mother Jean and father Andy.

“Taylor helped in the evacuation of the students onto the athletic field, waited for parents to pick up the students and whoever was leftover went to higher ground. Taylor decided to go back to her apartment, but by her bike, and so we know she left her school and that’s the last we know,” Anderson said  late last week.

“Shortly thereafter, the tsunami warning sirens started to sound," her father, Andy, a 53-year-old real estate developer, said last week. “She probably had 10, 15 minutes of bike riding before the water hit.”

Taylor, who was living in Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, started learning Japanese when she was in middle school, and eventually minored in Asian Studies at college. When she left for Japan, the departure was emotional but the family was proud of her. 

“She was living the life that she always wanted and she was getting to know a culture she was always fascinated with,” Julia said last week. “Her students loved her.”