I don’t know why I am crying over her death today.
Last week, someone posted a song by Billy Bragg called The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie, to mark what would have been her 36th birthday and I have been thinking about her ever since.
The Israel Defense Forces killed her with a Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer, a machine that weighs 76 metric tons and was created for the sole purpose of destruction.
I did not know Rachel, but judging by her photos, she did not weigh more than 115 pounds. She was a peace activist. She was wearing bright orange. On March 16, 2003, Rachel stood in front of that horrific machine, to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian pharmacist and the driver of that wicked contraption demolished her bones, her organs, but he did not silence her voice.
The sun is coming up as I write this—a mad, orange ball rushing past the horizon. Most mornings, I sit on my porch and watch the sun advance across the pale sky until I am blinded by its brilliance. Rachel won’t see the sun or feel the comforting warmth of those first rays on bare feet. She is still dead. She died in stillness, unwilling to abandon peace for her own sake.
Some have called her brave, others stupid, but I think she was just humble. She was so humble that she knew that the goal of peace is so much bigger than any one of us. How many more lives would she have touched if she had lived? How many lives has she touched in martyrdom? She touched mine.
Since Rachel’s death, thousands of innocent Palestinians and Israelis have died, never to be seen on the news. Thousands more have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Mexico, El Salvador, Yemen, Kenya—to name only a few—and still we keep killing one another in honor of power, greed and ignorance.
We will never know their names. No one will write songs or poems about them. Rachel Corrie was just one woman from Olympia, Washington who believed that peace was more important than her own life. How many of us would stand still in front of a D9 armored bulldozer and say, “Yes, I believe in peace”?
The Palestinian American poet, Suheir Hammad, wrote this about Rachel in her poem, On the brink of…
This young woman did the un-thinkable,
she did not blink, did not half-step, did not back
down in the face of death. What greater odds than
one lone female frame against a destructive
What greater story to tell?
On the brink of war, may our power
come from the people Rachel Corrie was murdered
defending. On the brink of war, may our hope
come from one another. On the
brink of—wait—this is not a war.
On the brink of whatever new-fangled
imperialist project this is, may Rachel Corrie
live in our resistance, in our pursuit
of justice, and in the spirit of sisterhood.
On the brink of war, may we remember how divine
human beings can be.
This morning, I remember Rachel and all of the people dying today, senselessly, at the hands of hatred and fear. The sun is so bright this morning, as bright as hope. I think about the divine activists who are risking their lives today, for peace. May their courage inspire us to action. Our world is a time bomb, ticking so insistently, it drives me crazy. A tear rolls down my cheek for Rachel Corrie, for all of the lives being bulldozed by violence. May we be brave enough to love, even when the world tempts us to hate.
Author: Peter Schaller
Editor: Travis May