Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old activist from Olympia, Wash., was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer on March 16 as she tried to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. In detailed e-mails to her parents, which they provided through the organization for which she was a volunteer, she explained why the work was so important to her. Excerpts:

FEB. 7, 2003 I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States -- something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. . . .

I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.

Rachel

FEB. 20 Mama,

. . . I am staying put in Rafah for now, no plans to head north. I still feel like I'm relatively safe and think that my most likely risk in case of a larger-scale incursion is arrest. . . .

Rachel

FEB. 27 Love you. Really miss you. I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside. Sometimes the adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks -- and then in the evening or at night it just hits me again -- a little bit of the reality of the situation. I am really scared for the people here.

. . . The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around six hundred, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border. Most of these are refugee homes . . .

If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment -- which would perhaps be a somewhat less cruel death than starvation, chronic malnutrition, and nitrite poisoning (caused from increasing reliance on wells located at a distance from settlements, eastward, where the water quality is poor), with no means of economic survival and our houses destroyed -- if they came and destroyed all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours -- do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect the edge of the greenhouses, to protect whatever fragments remained?

. . . I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed -- just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labor of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would.

. . . I'm having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach a lot from being doted on all the time, very sweetly, by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States, it all sounds like hyperbole. Honestly, a lot of the time the sheer kindness of the people here, coupled with the overwhelming evidence of the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I really can't believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. . . .

When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I've ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.

I love you and Dad . . .

Rachel

FEB. 28 It really helps me to get word from you, and from other people who care about me. . . .

You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people [here] are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. . . . They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul. . . . I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will. I love you.

Rachel

Rachel Corrie's parents, with one of the last photo images of their daughter taken on March 16.