As he talked, Craig Corrie sometimes flashed an uneasy smile, the kind of misplaced smile people often use as a defense mechanism when they're trying to keep from crying. Craig and Cindy Corrie have done a lot of crying during the last eight months.
On March 16, their youngest child, Rachel, 23, was killed in Rafah, Gaza, as she stood in protest in front of an Israeli bulldozer that was preparing to demolish the home of a Palestinian family. The bulldozer kept coming and crushed Rachel.
After Rachel's death, Craig quit his insurance job in Charlotte, and he and his wife have traveled around the country to speak about their daughter, and to continue her work for a just peace in the Middle East. The Corries were at United Church of Chapel Hill recently to speak at a conference titled, "Bridging the Divide: Towards a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine."
In the immediate aftermath of Rachel's death, it was the Corries' third child, son Chris, who kept things together enough to contact the U.S. State Department and make arrangements to get Rachel's body returned to the U.S. "The loss is overwhelming," Craig Corrie said. "Rachel's gone, so there's nothing I can do to bring back Rachel. We had that loss, but luckily for us and luckily for Rachel, her life was taken working on something very important something important to her, now important to us.
"She was trying to save the home of a doctor, his wife and his three children."
The Corries left Charlotte to move back to their home state of Washington. In the days immediately following Rachel's death, the Corries were overwhelmed with support and requests for interviews. "Somebody gave out Cindy's AOL account," Craig said. "That'll only take a thousand e-mails, so it was blown in the first hour or so. We got 7,000 e-mails right away."
In a press release, Amnesty International U.S.A. "condemned the killing of Rachel Corrie and called for an independent investigation of her death." The international human rights organization also renewed a call for a suspension of U.S. transfers to Israel of military equipment, including the U.S.-made bulldozers that "have been used to commit human rights abuses."
Amnesty International has consistently condemned violations by all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called on all sides to take action to end the killing and wounding of civilians.
Rachel Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a nonviolent resistance group that works with Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation. According to Amnesty International, the Israeli army has demolished more than 3,000 Palestinian homes in the last two years, as well as damaging large areas of agricultural land, public and private properties, and water and electricity infrastructure in urban and rural areas.
The last eight months have been a blur for the Corries. Much of what they have done has been "without a whole lot of forethought," says Craig Corrie. "So far, we really haven't had much time to think about what to do." At the conference, Cindy Corrie read aloud from an essay Rachel wrote about growing up in Olympia, Wash., near the estuary at the mouth of Perry Creek, which flows into Puget Sound. Rachel wrote about hiding in the rushes and being completely invisible.
"This is where I came from; tunnels through rushes," Rachel wrote, " ... in the middle of the estuary at the mouth of Perry Creek ... I came from Perry Creek, and I would have liked to stay forever in the rushes but I couldn't. I look at this place now, and I just want to do right by it."
Reading her daughter's writings now, Cindy Corrie says she sees connections. "In all of her writing and in all of her work, everything that I see tells me that when Rachel went to Palestine what she wanted to do was to do right by the Palestinian people," Cindy said. "I know that she believed by doing that she would also be doing right by all of us here in the U.S. and by the Israeli people as well. She believed in connections and bridging."