OLYMPIA, Wash. – Within hours of being crushed by an Israeli bulldozer, Rachel Corrie became a martyr and hero for the peace activists of her hometown.
Candles burned and bitter tears flowed as several hundred people gathered Sunday evening in a waterfront park in this small liberal city.
Mourners held photocopied pictures of Corrie, 23, a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia who died Sunday in Gaza while trying to stop the bulldozer from tearing down a Palestinian physician's home. She fell in front of the machine, which ran over her and then backed up, witnesses said.
The Israeli military said her death was an accident.
The caption under the picture displayed by the mourners was "Peacemaker," while a hand-lettered banner read: "Rachel, your courage, your spirit of resistance and your joy for life will inspire us always to stand for peace and justice." Mourners put flowers on a mock coffin draped with a Palestinian head-cloth.
Her friends called on the United States to stop aiding Israel and avoid war in Iraq.
"Rachel shouldered the responsibility that her government would not bear," said Krissy Johnson, 24. "She was killed by a bulldozer paid for by U.S. tax dollars. In her name, we say: Stop the killing."
In an e-mail earlier this month, Corrie had described a Feb. 14 confrontation with another Israeli bulldozer in which she referred to herself and other activists as "internationals."
"The internationals stood in the path of the bulldozer and were physically pushed with the shovel backwards, taking shelter in a house," Corrie wrote in the e-mail, distributed in a March 3 news release by the International Solidarity Movement.
"The bulldozer then proceeded on its course, demolishing one side of the house with the internationals inside," she wrote.
Just a few months before her death, Corrie had been organizing events as an activist in Olympia's peace movement and at Evergreen, a small campus know for its devotion to liberal causes.
Through a local group called Olympians for Peace in the Middle East, she joined the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led group that uses nonviolent methods to challenge Israeli occupation. Among their methods is standing in front of the bulldozers Israel sends into the area to destroy buildings it believes are used by terrorists.
Other protesters who were with Corrie in Gaza on Sunday said she was wearing a bright colored jacket when the bulldozer hit her.
"Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," said Greg Schnabel, 28, of Chicago. "She waved for the bulldozer to stop. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."
Israeli military spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said her death was an accident. State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said the U.S. government had asked Israeli officials for a full investigation.
A tearful Craig Corrie, Rachel's father, remembered his daughter Sunday as "dedicated to everybody."
"We've tried to bring up our children to have a sense of community, a sense of community that everybody in the world belonged to," he said from his home in Charlotte, N.C. "Rachel believed that -- with her life, now."
He and his wife, Cindy Corrie, said they knew their daughter's mission was dangerous but said she was old enough to make her own decisions.
"I've raised my children to be independent and make their choices," Cindy Corrie said. "And I know that I couldn't tell her not to go."
"We were very proud of her," said Craig Corrie. "We're very proud of her courage and what she stood for." The parents had moved to Charlotte from Olympia a couple of years ago.
Corrie was already a committed peace activist when she arrived at Evergreen State, said Larry Mosqueda, one of Corrie's professors and a fellow activist.
"She was concerned about human rights and dignity," he said. "That's why she was there."
In her e-mailed dispatch from Rafah, Corrie painted a picture of the perilous life of a human shield.
"We can only imagine what it is like for Palestinians living here, most of them already once-or-twice refugees already, for whom this is not a nightmare," Corrie wrote, "but a continuous reality from which international privilege cannot protect them, and from which they have no economic means to escape."