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Peace Garden

February 18, 2011 - 12:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Terry Anderson, Peace Garden.

It's an auspicious time for Terry Anderson to return to Batavia to dedicate a peace garden.

Anderson, who grew up in Batavia, was chief Middle East correspondent for Associated Press when he was abducted on March 16, 1985, in Beirut following a game of tennis. Anderson was held in captivity by Hezbollah for six years and nine months.

As Anderson returns to his boyhood home, the Middle East is exploding in a way it never has before. Governments in Tunisia and Egypt have been toppled by pro-democracy demonstrators. Even the Iranian government, which backs Hezbollah, is facing youthful opposition.

Anderson is cautiously optimistic about what he sees happening.

"I watched Yasser Arafat and Isaac Rabin shake hands on the White House lawn," Anderson said tonight during a meet-and-greet at Batavia Downs. "It was one of the most optimistic days of my life, because I covered that conflict for years, and (look at) what has happened since.

"It doesn’t always turn out for the best. But yes, I see something new in the Middle East. I see something that promises something hopeful for the future."

One of America's most acclaimed and recognized journalists, Anderson was invited to return to his former hometown to help raise funds for a War of 1812 Peace Garden planned for a plot of land adjacent to the Holland Land Office Museum.

Anderson will have a busy day Friday, starting with an 8 a.m. visit to Batavia High School. He will also have lunch with GCC President Stuart Steiner followed by a public lecture at noon at GCC. At 2 p.m., there will be a press conference with Anderson at the Genesee County History Office, 7 W. Main St., and at 5 p.m., the main event -- a dinner at Terry Hills ($25 per person), where Anderson will be the featured speaker.

Thursday night, Anderson arrived at Batavia Downs shortly after 7 p.m. and he was warmly greeted by a few old friends as well as people involved in organizing the peace garden effort. Anderson also took a few minutes to talk with members of the media who where there.

Anderson -- who recently finished a teaching stint at the University of Kentucky and is now contemplating a return to residency in Upstate New York -- was animated as soon as the topic turned to the turmoil in the Middle East.

He recalled that he was in captivity when Marcos fell in the Philippines, and that was followed by the regime falling in South Africa and then, of course, the toppling of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union.

"It just proves again what we knew then – you can have all of the police and secret police and guns and thugs in the world, and when your people stand up and say, ‘no, we’re tired of you,’ you’re gone," Anderson said.

He added, "Every country is different, but there is something going around that they all seem to have in common: They are tired of dictators and corruption and denial of human rights."

A Vietnam veteran, Anderson said that as a 19-year-old Marine, he visited the most famous peace garden in the world, the one at ground zero in Hiroshima, Japan. So when he was invited to return to Batavia to help bring about a new peace garden he thought, "who's not in favor of peace?

"Why would I miss a chance to dedicate a peace garden? It may be on a smaller scale, but why wouldn't I support it?"

Photo: Jim Owen gets an autograph from Terry Anderson on one of his books.

April 5, 2010 - 11:24pm


With a nod of approval (no official vote could be taken) from the Legislature's Human Services Committee today, Marilyn Drilling and Barb Toal are ready to push forward with plans for a peace garden next to the Holland Land Office Museum.

They need to raise $55,000 in the next 11 months, and Drilling said a key component of the fundraising campaign will include a dinner with Terry Anderson as the keynote speaker.

terry_anderson.jpgAnderson, who was held captive in Lebanon for more than 6 years, from 1985 to 1991, hasn't visited his hometown of Batavia in 19 years.

He didn't want to make it 20, said Drilling, executive director of HLOM, and he agreed to support the peace garden effort at no cost to the organizers.

"Who better to talk about peace than a man who spent so much of his wonderful life behind locked doors," Drilling said.

The dinner is planned for Sept. 9.

The county owns the land next to the museum and must approve any new use of the strip of real estate hard against the Tonawanda Creek. To grant approval, the Legislature must receive a finished plan, which includes at least the potential of approvals from the City of Batavia and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as contract language from County Attorney Charles Zambito and final engineering plans.

Without that, the Human Services Committee couldn't even poll members for consensus, but it was clear there were no objections from members for pushing forward with the project.

"Of all the people I've heard talk about it, I don't think I've heard anybody say they're not in favor of it," said Hollis Upson. "It's very interesting the amount of outpouring and number of volunteers who support it. It's been vary contagious."

Drilling is concerned that without a sense that the county supports the project, it will impede fundraising, which needs to proceed now.

There are 20 countries with official Peace Gardens, which is an international effort to promote and recognize peace among nations. The Peace Garden Foundation promotes the effort and was founded by current president Paula Savage, a resident and native of Batavia. The Batavia garden would be an honorary, not official, member. It would feature the 20 flags of the countries with official gardens.

Each country would be represented by its flag, and flag poles would be sold for donations of about $2,500 each, according to Drilling.

Drilling sees the peace garden as a natural extension of HLOM, helping to bring in tourists.

Toal, who chairs the local Peace Garden Committee, said it's a natural fit for Batavia and the strong interest in the region from War of 1812 enthusiasts.

Batavia, she said, served as a key defense in stopping the British advance after Buffalo was destroyed. Many tourists interested in the War of 1812 make the trip to Batavia, she said, and the peace garden at HLOM would be an appropriate destination point.

No county funds would be used in building and maintaining the peace garden, which is why, Drilling said, it's important to get started on fundraising now.

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