By Kim Knox
No one can
heal the wounds that have been inflicted. You just have to recognize that
people have been harmed.
for Marla Ruzicka was like Marla full of laughter, joy, sadness, and a
great deal of love.
was 28 at the time of her death, founded the Campaign for Innocent Victims
in Conflict. Its mission was to count the number of civilian Iraqi
casualties and to ensure that life-saving assistance was provided to
civilians in need.
Ruzicka and CIVIC's Iraq Country Director, Faiz Ali Salim who was the
father of a newborn were killed in Baghdad on April 16, while driving
down the dangerous Airport Road. Marla went to Baghdad in February 2003
and found her life's work there. She helped to convince Congress to set up
a $20 million fund to assist Iraqi civilians impacted by the U.S.-led
invasion of their country. The last photo taken of Marla provides an
example. Marla is holding a little girl named Harah, who was orphaned at
the age of three months; her entire family died when their car was hit by
U.S. rocket attack.
charmed staff and representatives of Congress as she worked to get an
appropriations bill of $17 million passed for aid to Iraqi and Afghan
for Marla Ruzicka was held at the Women's Building last week. Her father
and mother, who are Republicans from Lake County, began the ceremony.
Everyone was touched by her father's simple words: "Marla was the apple of
my eye. And I vow to be a better person for Marla."
mentors, mentorees, and colleagues spoke about Marla's love, joy,
dedication, thirst for knowledge, and persistence. A colleague told the
story of when she took Marla and others to a civil disobedience event in
Texas. Since the colleague was from the area, they stayed at her family's
home. The colleague's parents were not very happy about the idea of civil
disobedience in general or about these people who had come to live at
their home while they planned a protest. But in the end, Marla charmed the
parents and convinced the colleague's dad to join in dancing to a 1960s
McGoldrick, Chris Daly, Jeff Adachi, and Ross Mirkarimi attended the
memorial. McGoldrick talked about Marla's great love for everyone. Daly
talked about her endless ideas, adding, "Marla had the energy of three
people." Adachi recalled that at the beginning of his long campaign for
public defender, Marla gave him courage by telling him, "You are going to
win!" Mirkarimi talked about a long ride with Marla to her home in Lake
County and how she filled and scrambled his brain with all of her ideas
But the most
poignant moment came with the contribution of Maya Danaher, the teenage
daughter of Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin. Marla stayed with Mayas
family while she was volunteering for Global Exchange. Maya talked about
how she celebrated her birthday by going to Lake County with Marla to
visit Marla's family. With tears in her eyes, Maya said, "I didn't know
the numbers of people who loved her. I want to call her up and ask her,
why didn't she tell me that all these people love her?"
was wonderful, but for a long time something was missing. No one mentioned
the loss of Faiz Ali Salim, who was with Marla in the car. As a native of
Iraq, he was instrumental in aiding the civilians as well and he
probably knew the dangers better than Marla.
have been proud of how the void was filled. The last speaker was the only
one who remembered Faiz. And the last speaker was Marla's twin brother,
Mark, who added, "We are going to make sure that Marla's work continues."
To donate to
CIVIC, go to their website,
www.civicworldwide.org, or write the Campaign for Innocent Victims in
Conflict, 1605 Connecticut Ave NW 3rd Floor, Washington DC, 20009.