Rachel Corrie was a beautiful, kind, young woman. She was an artist and peace activist. She was going to graduate from college this year. She was 23 years old, and she was murdered on March 16, 2003, in Palestine by an Israeli bulldozer. Rachel was my friend.
We met in Olympia, WA, where she lived, when we were both students at Evergreen State College. She was a frequent presence on campus. I would go over to my friends' place and she would be there drawing, painting, listening to music, or chatting while the rain fell outside.
Rachel was a friendly, open person, who was enthusiastic about life. She had deep blue eyes that conveyed intensity and passion. She was often smiling, and engaged in conversation and activity. Rachel had a gift for empathy. Her sensitivity for injustice to humanity called her to work actively for social change. She worked to bring communities to action in positive, sustainable ways.
We sat up all night talking, huddling under blankets, and laughing. We enjoyed life together, among the trees, under the stars, in the dorms, and at parties.
Rachel was vibrant. She was eager to take charge of life and seek her dreams.
We lost touch when I moved to Seattle and she went into the Conservation Corps, working long hours on the Olympic Peninsula to save money to continue school. I last saw her at a party in Olympia four years ago where we hugged, talked, danced, and promised to keep in touch.
Now, I'll never see Rachel again. Neither will her parents in Charlotte, or her close friends, or the activists she was working with in Israel, where she went this fall as a member of the International Solidarity Movement with hopes of setting up a sister-city relationship between Olympia and Rafah.
The Israeli army is attempting to dishonor Rachel by claiming that she was acting irresponsibly, yet many believe her death was deliberate. The driver of the bulldozer drove forward over Rachel after she had climbed down from speaking with him. She was wearing a bright fluorescent coat, was holding a megaphone, and was standing in front of the bulldozer, trying to stop the illegal demolition of a Palestinian doctor's home.
The bulldozer began driving towards her. She waved for the bulldozer to stop and climbed onto the pile of rubble in front of her. The bulldozer continued to advance, burying her in the pile of rubble before driving over her twice.
The seven other ISM activists yelled for the driver to stop as they listened to Rachel's screams. Once the bulldozer had driven completely forward over Rachel, then backed over her again, they ran to dig her body out of the rubble and dirt. She was taken to the hospital where she was proclaimed dead of injuries to her head and chest.
Rachel had hoped to contribute to creating a peaceful resolution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
From one of her first emails home to Olympia from Rafah:
". . .You are always well aware that your experience of [Rafah] is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. . .When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done. So, if I feel outrage at. . .entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and spent an evening when you didn't wonder if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward, and met people who have never lost anyone -- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements' and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent just existing in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world's fourth-largest military apparatus -- backed by the world's only superpower -- in its attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew."