Buchanan, 32, was rescued by a team of Navy SEALS that included some involved in the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
Paul Hagen Thisted, 60, from Denmark, was freed along with Buchanan in the dramatic nighttime rescue, which U.S. officials said left nine Somali captors dead. The two were working for the Danish Refugee Council and had just finished a workshop on land mines when they were kidnapped.
U.S. officials said the raid was triggered in part by intelligence reports that Buchanan's health was failing. They did not elaborate.
At Valley Forge Christian, a small religious school of 1,100 students at the edge of Phoenixville on the grounds of a former military hospital, Buchanan's teachers remembered her Wednesday as a passionate student who was focused on teaching in Africa.
Before enrolling in the college, she had visited Nigeria. McClure said that when he approached her in 2006 to ask where she wanted to do her student teaching, he was surprised at her reply: She wanted to work at a Christian school in Kenya - Rosslyn Academy, in Nairobi.
"She had a passion to teach in that school," said McClure, who had to ask state education officials whether she could earn her teaching certification by working overseas. They said she could, as long as she was supervised by a teacher certified in the United States.
"She was a very passionate young lady," McClure remembered. When he asked what she would do if her plans to teach at Rosslyn fell through, Buchanan replied: "I don't want to teach anywhere else."
"She felt like God was directing and guiding her to Nairobi," McClure says, calling Buchanan a mature and focused student.
So Buchanan moved to Africa after graduating in 2007, and went to work full time at the academy, teaching fourth graders. It was in Africa, too, that Buchanan met her husband, said Don Meyer, president of Valley Forge Christian, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination.
In addition to a sister, Buchanan, who grew up in Ohio and Arizona, has a brother. Her father, who lives in Virginia, learned of the rescue in a personal phone call from President Obama. A college spokeswoman said the family did not wish to comment.
Growing up, Buchanan attended Ridgeville Christian, a school outside Dayton, Ohio, that is no longer in operation, according to the Associated Press.
Meyer remembered Buchanan returning to the Phoenixville campus for a visit two years ago, after her mother had died.
Venturing overseas is not unusual for the school's graduates. The chapel on the 100-acre campus has 47 flags in it, representing the countries around the world where alumni live.
"I want to bring you a Somalian flag," Meyer remembered Buchanan telling him.
The school president said he first learned of Buchanan's release from her brother-in-law, a student at the school.
Meyer broke the news to students at a daily morning prayer service Wednesday.
Danielle Guy, a freshman from West Philadelphia, attended that service. "That'll make a great testimony for the whole world," Guy said, explaining that she's a recent convert to Christianity and Buchanan's story "moves me."
David Scolforo, chairman of the behavioral sciences department, found out about Buchanan's rescue from his daughter, Christine, who is one of Buchanan's best friends and was a roommate at Valley Forge Christian.
Buchanan is "like a daughter to me," Scolforo said, recalling that she often spent time at his house. "It's been terrible," says Scolforo, who had been afraid that he would read of her death in a news report.
He said Buchanan's sister, Amy, called his daughter Tuesday night to tell her of the rescue.
And as for the Valley Forge Christian campus, where television news vans were lined up outside the main administrative building Wednesday, Meyer said, "This is not a routine day in our neighborhood."
Contact staff writer Anthony Campisi at 215-854-5015, email@example.com, or @campisia on Twitter.