Celebrating Rachel Corrie's life

OLYMPIA — As they have done in years prior, a group of local residents dressed themselves as doves and marched.

Yesterday, though, the "Procession of the Species" participants, usually heralding the arrival of spring, converged at a college gym to celebrate the life of one of their own: Rachel Aliene Corrie, 23.

Corrie, born and raised in this leafy liberal town, has been memorialized throughout the week in Olympia; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Canada; Sweden; and Israel's Gaza Strip. Gaza Strip was where she died one week ago, crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer as it moved to demolish a Palestinian house.

The Israeli government is investigating her death.

In January, Corrie packed up from The Evergreen State College here and went to Gaza to challenge the Israeli occupation of the disputed territories. She had long been politically active. Now her death has become a rallying cry for all sorts of political causes.

In the last week, photos of Corrie — a symbol of peace to many — have been plastered on tanks in Israel and on posters at antiwar protests in the U.S.

Others, though, have condemned her for her support of Palestinians, or her belief that she could make a difference by going to Israel in the first place. A University of Maryland student newspaper published an editorial cartoon showing Corrie seated in front of a bulldozer and called her stupid.

At a public memorial on Evergreen's campus yesterday, attendees were asked to leave all political posters or placards outside.

The memorial, which drew some 1,000 people, was decidedly homey and international. Children's music sung in Hebrew. The playing of an Arabic oud. A prayer from the Quran and a Jewish prayer read by Corrie's uncle.

The doves strutted in first, marching to Brazilian samba, whistling, ringing bells and flying large, colorful silk-screened windsocks. Corrie had once been a dove herself in the annual spring parade.

At a news conference before the memorial, 16 members of the Corrie family thanked the public for its support. They also held up placards with the names of Israeli and Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military and by Palestinian suicide bombers since September 2000.

These are the children, said Corrie's mother, Cindy, whom her daughter would have wanted people to know about.

"Rachel would find it hugely unfair if her death," she said, "were to eclipse theirs."

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com