Rachel grew up in Olympia, Wa. I originally met her when she was a student in the options program at Lincoln school around 1989. She was a friend of my son and played on the same YMCA basketball team as my daughter. Rachel and I talked a lot the last two years and marched together at various demos. Rachel was a totally caring and gentle person who was outraged by oppression wherever it took place and had become very active working for social justice and peace.
Rachel was a very modest and responsible person who was the heart and soul of the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, a group she had originally begun working with as part of her study in the Local Knowledge program taught by Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson. Rachel was very active in opposing the U.S. “war against terror” and U.S. militarism.
One project she threw her mind and body into was a September 11th, 2002 day against the U.S. war in Afghanistan and against repression at home at Percival Landing in downtown Olympia. She got a lot of elementary school kids and classes to participate.
So it is very fitting that the vigil tonight (Sunday, March 16th at 7 P.M.) against the war in Iraq and to honor and mourn Rachel, was at Percival Landing. Close to 1000 people attended.
Rachel was a very reflective person who constantly thought about how to link together various groups working for justice, e.g., the labor movement and the peace movement. She volunteered at the Evergreen Labor Center and played a major role in organizing a conference dealing with networking and strategies for justice and peace last spring, 2002.
Another major concern of hers was to involve the local Olympia community that was not connected to Evergreen to the anti-war and economic and social justice issues and groups. Besides going to the Evergreen State College, Rachel also worked at BHR, a local mental health clinic and waas active in her union, 1199, a part of SEIU.
Justice for the Palestinian people was one of many issues Rachel felt deeply about. She strongly opposed the Israeli occupation and supported a Palestinian state. For Rachel, feeling deeply always meant also doing something about her concerns.
She had studied Arabic at Evergreen and decided to go to the Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine for winter quarter. Part of her reasoning was that it was important to have international observers there as Israeli aggression was likely to increase when the U.S. attacked, bombed and invaded Iraq. She strongly opposed the U.S. war against Iraq.
Rachel was aware of the dangers and risks of going to Gaza. She left Olympia on January 18th of this year, went to the West Bank and then Gaza, threw herself fully into human rights activism and solidarity with the Palestinian people.
She volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement, people from around the world who have been witnesses to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. She had planned to return to Evergreen State College for spring quarter to finish her studies.
Rachel Corrie will not be coming back to Olympia but let us all take a moment to reflect on what each of us can do to carry on her legacy by doing a little more to oppose war and further justice, equality and peace in the Middle East, around the world and in the U.S. Rachel Corrie was an ordinary and an extraordinary person.
Peter Bohmer is a faculty member, professor of economics, at the Evergreen State College. He has been active in social justice movements from the late 1960’s to the present.