My family and I will never forget March 16, 2003, the day we lost our dear friend Rachel Corrie. A volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Rachel lived with us in Rafah as if she were a member of our family. She helped us even when we did not need help. She tried to bring optimism and happiness into our lives.
Every morning she would leave with her friends to confront the bulldozers of occupation and to defend houses from their destructive reach. Every evening she would return to us, tired, after a hard day of work.
On the day of her murder, I was returning from work when I saw her and her friends trying to prevent the bulldozers from demolishing the homes adjacent to mine. Then, the bulldozers were approaching my home, and I was surprised to see Rachel standing in front of the bulldozers, with all her courage, strength, and determination. Small as she was, she stood like a mountain, steadfast before those giant machines.
Flanked by two tanks, the bulldozer came closer and closer to my home, and throughout all this, Rachel stood there with a megaphone in her hand repeating loudly that she was not going to move. The driver could see her clearly and he continued to approach the house. She spoke louder and louder: “Stop! Stop! Don’t Move!” She identified herself as a member of the ISM, but to no avail. She started to scream at the top of her lungs, but the driver continued to approach her. I could see her clearly when the bulldozer had nearly reached her. It hurled a pile of sand at her, and she lost her balance and fell. That is when I lost sight of her. She was no more than 10 meters from me.
Then, I found myself screaming, feeling that I had lost her, in the way we had lost so many Palestinians before her. I called the paramedics to send an ambulance immediately. I opened the ambulance doors as quickly as I could and took out the First Aid kit and ran towards Rachel to try and save her. I found her ISM friends gathered around her, and together we removed the sand from on top of her and lifted her into the ambulance to rush her to the hospital. I knew from the first instance that she was in critical condition. I was with her friends, Alice and Tom, when a seven member medical team finally gave up trying to revive her.
Now there are no internationals with us in Rafah, this isolated town on the Egyptian border. The last ones left to renew their visas, intending to return, but the Israeli army prevented their re-entry into Gaza. The hardships my family and I experience continue and have, in fact, worsened since the internationals left. We lost our house soon afterwards, as if the Israeli army was just waiting for the ISM to leave.
As for Rachel and the message she delivered to us and to the world, she was in pursuit of the truth. She dedicated her life to that. She conveyed the truth as she saw it, reporting the crimes of the Israeli army against innocent Palestinian civilians. The hands of the occupation killed her in cold blood as if to say to us, “I will deny you your spoken voice.” I don’t feel safe as long as our voice does not reach the outside world.
I call on my ISM friends to return to us. I ask you to come back because Rafah needs you. Tanks roll in and out with total ease, killing and destroying at will. And, without you, no one sees and no one hears.
There is not a day when my family and I don’t think of Rachel. I told her family when they came to visit us that Rachel was a loss to my family, a loss to the whole Palestinian people, just as she was to them. Everyone lost her.
We still see that bulldozer that took her away from us.
As much as I speak about her, I still cannot do her justice.
Dr. Samir Nassrallah is a pharmacist and father of three from Rafah. Rachel Corrie died defending his home.