Missing Virginia Teacher's Body Found in Japan

PHOTO The body of Taylor Anderson has been found in Japan, her family says, she was last seen in Ishinomaki, Japan, on March 11 after the earthquake.
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Taylor Anderson loved Japan since she was a young child, became fluent in the language, and was teaching English in one of the country's coastal cities when the devastating tsunami struck. The Richmond, Va. woman is believed to be the first American victim of the disaster.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo says it has tentatively identified the body of Anderson, 24.

Anderson's family has not positively identified the body, officials said. The State Department told ABC News that it was unable to confirm Anderson's death; however, her family released a statement earlier today.

"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. 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. We ask that you respect our privacy during this hard time," the statement said.

Anderson was a teacher in the city of Ishinomaki as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program; she'd been participating in the program for 2.5 years.

Jean Anderson told ABC affiliate WVEC-TV that her daughter was last seen after the earthquake. She was riding her bike toward her apartment after ensuring that students at her school had been picked up by their parents. The tsunami hit the shores of Ishinomaki shortly afterward.

The family received news Tuesday that she was safe and in a shelter, but that information was wrong.

Ishinomaki is located in the Miyagi Prefecture, a coastal area that took the full force of the tsunami.

Japan: Longtime Love

Jean Anderson said her daughter's longtime love for Japan began when she was a child. After becoming fluent in Japanese, she was accepted into a teaching program and moved there.

On a Facebook group page where people shared information about missing friends and family in Japan, a person named Nata Nam said Taylor Anderson had taught a class on swing dance in 2009.

"Taylor, you will be missed," Nam wrote. "Thank you so much for your kind heart and your efforts in threading together different cultures."

Kira Siddall of Richmond, Va., spearheaded a search effort for Taylor Anderson on Twitter after receiving an email March 16 that the teacher was missing in Japan.

Siddall had attended the same school as Taylor Anderson but had graduated years ahead of her. The email from the head of the school asked people to spread the word about Taylor Anderson and to share their contacts in Japan.

Siddall said she then sent out a Tweet and asked Paul McDonald -- the creator of UberTwitter -- and others with large international followings on Twitter and Facebook to resend her message. She said she counted 4,500 Tweets about Taylor Anderson generated from that one message.

"Seeing the humane side of people was just amazing," she said. "They barely knew me and they're helping me help someone that went to my school."

Siddall said the Anderson family eventually reached out to her and she shared the phone numbers of people in Japan and in Ishinomaki with them.

She said she was devastated about the news of Taylor Anderson's death.

"I'm an eternal optimist," she said. "I just knew we would find information" that would lead her friends to find her alive.

'She Enjoyed Her Life There'

Siddall said she just hoped that the work done to gather information about Taylor Anderson would be repeated to find and help others.

"She enjoyed her life there," Jean Anderson told NHK World. She said that during a visit to the U.S., Taylor Anderson had brought wind chimes as a gift from Japan.

"When we hear the bells ringing, when we hear the wind chimes ringing, we say it's Taylor talking to us," Jean Anderson said.

ABC News affiliate WVEC-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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