Do you know who Rachel Corrie is?
It's important that you do, that you know how she died, what she stood for, and why her message must live on forever.

This is Rachel Corrie...

  

Rachel was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli Defence Force bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking non-violent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. The home belonged to a doctor and his family, whom Rachel and her friends had taken shelter at for a few weeks prior to the incident. She was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. 

10 years later, her perpetrators still has not been brought to book. After years of lengthy trial and court battles, an Israeli court ruled in September 2012 that Rachel is responsible for her own death because she deliberately placed herself in harm's way. (http://truth-out.org/news/item/11606-rachel-corrie-responsible-for-own-death-israeli-court-rules)

Before I go into what happened on that fateful day 10 years ago, on 16 March 2003, let's take a moment to learn about this amazing work by reflecting on some of her work, her sayings and her writings.

At a 5th grade press conference on world hunger, she recited:
by Rachel Corrie, aged 10 (1990)
  
I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.
 

Throughout her short life, a common thread running clearly through what she stood for was her concern about the children. Even from such a young age, she was concerned about the children that don't have the same privileges that she has, the children that are hungry when the world looks away, and in Gaza, the concern about the children that have lived their entire lives under the hell of an occupation force, and all of this while most of the world looks on and does nothing.

In January 2003, Rachel left the comfort of her hometown in Olympia, Washington to be a volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement, performing non-violent activism in Occupied Palestine, particularly in Gaza. Part of what they did was to protest the home demolitions, which are illegal under international law. She corresponded with her parents through telephone calls and emails. They decided to publicise these emails after her death as a means to inspire the world, and to show them what kind of person she was. Personally, her words inspire me a great deal

Extracts of Rachel's emails from Palestine... 

February 7th, 2003 (to her mother)

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. There are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with 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. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia 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 arriving and 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.
 
 
Feb, 27th 2003 (to her mother)

Anyway, I’m rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: “This is the wide world and I’m coming to it.” I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.

 
Feb 28th, 2003 (to her mother)
 
I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.


March 12th, 2003 (to her father) - This was the last email sent by Rachel
 
Hi papa, thank you for your email. I feel like sometimes I spend all my time propagandising mom, and assuming she’ll pass stuff on to you, so you get neglected. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk…

Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life. I love you very much. If you want you can write to me as if I was on vacation at a camp on the big island of Hawaii learning to weave. One thing I do to make things easier here is to utterly retreat into fantasies that I am in a Hollywood movie or a sitcom starring Michael J Fox. So feel free to make something up and I’ll be happy to play along.

Much love Poppy.

Rachel
 
 
Like I said, those are only extracts. If you would like to read all of it, feel free to have a look at Rachel's Emails from Palestine on her foundation's page


Rachel's Martyrdom...

The following are accounts of Rachel's death on 16 March, 2003 from the vantage point of the eyewitnesses. They stood about 15-20m from her and watched the entire incident unfold: 

When Rachel was 20-30 meters from the bulldozer, she knelt down in front of it. The bulldozer advanced toward her with the blade-bucket in the dirt at a height of 1.5-2 feet, about half a meter.... The terrain was flat ground and Richard [Purssell] had an open view on a clear day, and the incident occurred at a distance of 20 meters from him. When the bulldozer approached Rachel, she climbed onto a pile of dirt, not a large one [less than five feet high] ... From the place where she stood, Rachel looked into the driver's cabinThe bulldozer continued to move forward. Rachel turned around ... to get down from the pile, but the dirt was moving as she climbed down [and she fell as] the bulldozer continued to move forward. She disappeared under the pile of moving dirt. The bulldozer moved forward a distance of at least 4 meters. Then all of her friends ran toward it, and it stopped. 

In Richard's words: I heard lots of screams, a great many screams, people signalling to the bulldozer driver to stopsignalling him to stop. At that time, the bulldozer was still moving another 4 meters. It passed the spot where Rachel fell, stopped and backed up in reverse along the path it had travelled in a straight line along the path where Rachel lay on the ground.'

The government argues that the bulldozer driver didn't see Rachel. But the above underlined testimony, and this passage from a separate eyewitness disprove to this claim: 
 
He [Gregory Schnabel] saw that Rachel was at the height of the window of the bulldozer driver's cabin until she fell.... When the bulldozer came very close to Rachel, it started to push the dirt under her feet and around her ankles and she stood straight and struggled to remain on top of the pile. She climbed up so the driver could see her, and then she lost her balance and was pushed back. The deceased fell on her side and tried to get away but she was trapped and the bulldozer continued to advance.


The picture below was taken before the bulldozer ran over her, and it clearly shows that she was visible to the driver, wearing bright clothing on a clear day. 


 

 
Another eye-witness account, from Tom Dale, A British citizen from Birmingham and a member of Rachel's delegation, is as follows

The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.
 
All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel’s presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.
 
I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain haemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.

 
Both her arms, legs, skull and chest were fractured. She was taken by ambulance to the Najjar hospital, Rafah, and arrived at 5:05pm. Doctors scrambled to save her, but couldn't. She was declared dead at approximately 5:20pm.  

Now that you know, I ask that you never forget. I ask that not only should you not forget, but also do something small so that we might see in our lifetime what Rachel stood for. I'm not going to tell you what to do. If you want me to tell you what to do, then ask me, I most certainly will tell you. I do what I can in public and in private, and hope that it makes a difference, no matter how small. We can all be a part of the shift, the shift is happening. Palestine will be free. No matter how long it takes, an oppressor is always toppled. A regime based on injustice can never survive indefinitely.

Rachel gave her life to the cause. By killing her, her perpetrators catapulted her to an icon of the fight for truth, justice and human rights. Her message is stronger in death than it ever could be in her lifetime. An award-winning play about her life (My name is Rachel Corrie) was performed to sold-out audiences all over Europe and in New York, a foundation was started in her name (Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice), her memory inspires events in her hometown and around the world, and her killing, as well as the media exposure around the courtroom trial, has exposed the Western world to the brutality of the IDF that would normally go 'unseen'.

On 30 March, we will remember Rachel Corrie by running the Two Oceans Marathon 21km and 56km with the Palestinian flag with her name on it. If you would like to be informed of the activities of this group, please like us on Facebook. The group can be found at Runners for the Freedom of Palestine. If anyone would like to join in on the run as well (you must already have a TO entry), feel free to contact me or contact us via the FB page. 
 
RACHEL... WE WILL NEVER FORGET!