EYEWITNESS: JOE SMITH
ACCOUNT OF RACHEL CORRIE's DEATH
Joe Smith is a United States citizen from Kansas City, MO, USA, born April 25, 1981.
"I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I’ve never had someone close to me die before, let alone be brutally murdered right in front of my eyes. I don’t even know how to react. I went through stages of dumbfounded shock and serious crying fits. I had no chance to be alone at all, I was either surrounded by Palestinians or on the phone with media. I chose the latter. I was doing interviews non-stop starting 30 min. after her death, all the way until midnight, and then starting again at 6am and continuing all day today. I literally would never hang up the phone, just switch to an incoming call on call waiting. When I did finally get a second to breath, I’d have like 30 missed calls.
"Anyway, it was a bit therapeutic I think, telling the story over and over, and interviews make me feel [as if I was doing something] important[in the aftermath]. All this thing is, is a media event now, so we must continue a campaign as hard as possible before the new and bigger tragedy, the Iraq war, begins. The few hours I had off interviews last night between midnight and 4am, was spent organizing today’s events, press conferences, live TV/radio interviews, a demonstration and the beginnings of the traditional Palestinian 3-day ceremony. Now we’re preparing for a serious influx of people from the West Bank and Israel, as well as some people from abroad, possibly including her family.
"The stress is really getting to me. I couldn’t sleep for the 2 hours I was allowed because my body won’t relax. My heart is racing and shake a lot, and even have trouble breathing. My jaw is the worst though. It won’t loosen to save my life, and it hurts like hell, especially when I chew (when i get time to grab a falafel sandwich). I’ve never experienced physical stress and tension like this.
"We thought this might happen eventually. We often spoke in the abstract that eventually one of us would get killed, but we always figured they’d shoot us, or it’d be an "accident", like in a house that is missiled or a stray bullet gets an unlucky activist. I never dreamed it’d be like this, the intentional crushing of a human being.
"I do believe it was intentional. I saw it, and I know he saw her, I know he did, and I know he knew she was still under the bulldozer when it backed up without raising its blade. I don’t know if he wanted to kill her, or if he was just focused on doing his work and didn’t care if he killed her or not, I don’t know which is scarier. I don’t feel like telling the whole detailed story right now. I promise that for the record I will tell it in detail, but give me a few days. I just want to quickly dispel a few myths you may have heard in the media. She did not "trip and fall" in front of the bulldozer. She sat down in front of it, well in advance, wearing one of the orange flouro jackets I got in Amsterdam. (By the way, I took the pictures you may have seen of her, standing with the megaphone in front of the bulldozer, and the ones of her friends helping her.)
"He clearly saw her, and continued to drive until she was forced onto the top of the dirt he was pushing, elevating her so much that she was at eye level with the bulldozer’s cab, he could see right into her eyes. He continued forward, pulling her underneath the dirt, and out of his vision. He continued forward, crushing her underneath the weight of the blade. He continued forward, until she was well underneath the bulldozer. It was then quite clear that she was nowhere but underneath him, but he proceeded to back up, without lifting the blade, crushing her again.
"I believe that it was the combination of these two crushings that caused her death. She was defending the house of a physician. We’ve all stayed in the house, we know that there are no weapons of any kind there. Just a middle aged doctor and his lovely family. They want to demolish it because it happens to lie near the border, and they’re systematically demolishing all the houses near the border. It has nothing to do with retaliatory or preventative operations. They were not searching for tunnels or bombs either. We know what this looks like, they do it a lot. It involves armored drills and bomb dogs and shooting at the ground, none of which was present here.
"Its just a further example of the Israeli military’s blatant lies. There was never any gunfire from any Palestinians, the only gunfire came from the tank, when it shot at the ground a few times in order to scare us. But even this was extremely minimal. The Palestinian that was killed was in a totally separate area of Rafah, and was killed by blanket fire into the area, not in a gun battle. It is quite unfortunate that his death probably wouldn’t even be reported anywhere if it weren’t for [what happened to] Rachel. The Palestinians have been incredible. They are quite used to this, as thousands of their people have died. Indeed I now know how every Palestinian family feels, as many of them have lost multiple friends and family to this occupation.
"Their support has been invaluable however, they’ve gone to full lengths to give her a proper demonstration and ceremony, like they give every other Shahid (martyr). They’ve made a nice poster of her as well, which will be posted in all of the places she has been, and there’s ganna be a big march and demonstration this afternoon. We’re planning actions for the coming days as well. We’re planning to occupy the murder sight, and line the whole area with flowers, and erect a nice visible memorial as well. I don’t know what this means for us now.
"It could go one of two ways. It could make us more effective, because now they know that we are not going to move, and that we will risk our safety to oppose them. Thus they will be forced to be more careful, and withdraw sooner. Or, it could mean that they know longer care, and will willfully kill and injure us without hesitation. This would render us useless as human shields, and our work would be impossible. So we’ll have to see.
"I know we’ll be much more careful, and have long talks about tactics, and with what people are still comfortable. I have a lot of thinking and considering to do. But we’re not leaving, that’s for sure. We’re dedicated to staying here, especially with the Iraq war and risk of full invasion of Gaza. If any of you heard anything else and have questions, I’d gladly respond to them.
[...] "I’m sure you’ll keep me in your thoughts, I need all the energy I can get as I deal with this trauma. My close friends and family have been wonderful, and haven't freaked out on me like I thought they would. But I share their concern. Ok, I must go the press conference. Below is an article by my professor from Evergreen, its a fabulous analysis of Sharon’s occupation and his attacks on innocent civilians."(article was part of email)
March 17, 2003