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Activist recalled for her devotion to Iraqis

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Marla Ruzicka remembered for her devotion to Iraqi people.
• Hundreds attend funeral
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Marla Ruzicka, an American activist killed in an Iraqi car bombing last month, was remembered Saturday for her "tenaciousness" when she counted civilian war casualties at a special memorial service in Washington.

"Only by doing so can we note the true cost of war and we can properly dignify and honor each person killed or wounded as an individual -- as a father, a son, a daughter, a mother -- not just as collateral damage," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said. "That's Marla's legacy."

About 200 people gathered in a U.S. Senate Caucus Room on Capitol Hill to honor Ruzicka, including many Washington power brokers.

Leahy, who organized the event, recalled the 28-year-old as tireless campaigner who founded the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) in 2003 after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

The California native conducted door-to-door surveys trying to determine the number of civilian casualties. She died April 16 in the capital.

Leahy has said Ruzicka helped secure millions of dollars from Congress for distribution to Iraqi civilians.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said, "It's just the instant that we occupy that we know about. And so what we do with that instant is all important. And here was a young woman who lived her instant to the fullest.

Among the others who spoke at the memorial were Samir Shakir Sumaidaie, Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations; consumer advocate Ralph Nader; and author Peter Bergen, a terrorism analyst.

"Where else in the world is a government helping the civilians they harm in conflict? Marla was very proud of this fact," Bergen said.

"In a final e-mail (she said): 'We're helping lots of kids with medical care' -- this is on the day that Marla died -- 'This place continues to break my heart. Need to get out of here, but it's hard.'"

CNN's Tomas Etzler contributed to this report

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