One Of a Kind

The fact that Marla Ruzicka is dead is a terrible, shocking loss. It is also a reminder that death often follows good works by people who have made their own lives secondary to the people they have chosen to serve.

At first Marla was a political activist, well-trained by Medea Benjamin and others at Global Exchange. But over time she evolved her own brand of engagement. She was a true humanitarian worker, focusing on the plight of individual families victimized by the brutal military situation in Iraq.

Marla started her own group, CIVIC Worldwide. Her goals were to accurately document the true toll of our bombing and occupation and serve as a broker and advocate for children and families devastated by the huge death toll. She worked tirelessly to gain resources for the victims, especially the many orphans, so they might have homes, medical care, and some kind of normal life-- if that were possible in ravaged Iraq, where any moment an arbitrary explosion could devastate everything around you.

Marla sought to hold the US government responsible for its massive collateral damage. But she pursued her goals with quiet pragmaticism, using personal persuasion -- getting friendly reporters to write stories for her, persistently pursuing aid workers, and lobbying elected officials in Washington to increase the amount of humanitarian dollars being spent on the human toll in Iraq.

Early on, Marla was often underestimated. Her pretty youthfulness and seeming innocence hid her savvy political judgment. Initially, Marla was overshadowed by more experienced activists, but after deciding to commit herself to work in Iraq, she returned to speak powerfully and articulately of the plight of innocent civilians and was admired by thousands.

Marla was one of those people who was always surprising you. You thought you knew her, and then she would show you a side that you never knew was there. Marla was incredibly charming, and always forthright. You were always helping her to do things, although you never quite remembered her asking you. She would zoom into town -- San Francisco, New York, Washington -- tell moving stories, explain what she was trying to do next, raise some money. On the side she'd get a little counseling about her love life, or how overwhelmed she felt. And then just as quickly she would disappear, usually headed back to Iraq to work with unbridled passion.

To say Marla was unique may seem a cliche, but in my many years of political work and journalism, I have never known anyone quite like her. She was truly one of a kind. I will miss her, as will many others.

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