September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Members Retreat at Blue Mountain Center
May 27-31, 2009
Members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows gathered for the gift of a rare face-to-face meeting in Blue Mountain Lake, New York for four days, from dinnertime, Thursday, May 27th to mid-day, Sunday May 31, 2009.
The occasion was made possible by:
- The folks at Blue Mountain Center.
- The Peaceful Tomorrows members who accepted the invitation to come.
- The good wishes of all the Peaceful Tomorrows members who could not be there.
- The contributions of the consultants who facilitated our sessions in nonviolent communication.
As an organization we have existed since shortly after the tragic day that ended the lives of our loved ones. Our individual experiences have strengthened and been strengthened by community formed by the Peaceful Tomorrows members. Individually and as an organization we have experienced many changes in the years since our founding. The flow of life has called some members away from active involvement, and brought new members to rewarding engagement. All we have accomplished as an organization has been due to our commitment to ourselves and to each other to work for nonviolent solutions to the world’s – and to our own – conflicts. Not easy.
But we have done it, nevertheless, and we have many good fruits of our efforts as evidence. It is no admission of weakness, but rather a sign of our strength, that we recognize our need for refreshment in the company of one another, a time to reflect upon our history and a time to renew our commitment to our organization, and to our personal, mission.
Our time at Blue Mountain Center was full of the beauty of nature and art, and the beauty of human beings working hard (and having fun) at recognizing and connecting with the universal needs that unite all of humanity. There could be no better end to this introduction to the report of our time together than sincere thanks for the opportunity we had and took to enrich and strengthen Peaceful Tomorrows and ourselves.
On Behalf of the Steering Committee of Peaceful Tomorrows
BMC Retreat Report
Prepared by Katharina Feil, Project Coordinator
Thursday, May 28
During and after dinner we greeted one another and studied the PT chronology and bios of participants. These are now posted on our wesite.
As the new Project Coordinator, I met most of the people for the first time and tried to speak with almost everyone present that night.
Friday, May 29
Martha Lasley, trainer, and Kobi Skolnick, trainer and a member of “Combatants for Peace,” were our nonviolent communication [NVC] facilitators for the retreat and started the morning session by leading us in introductions. Part of the exercise was to tell each other what we feel passionate about and what inspires us.
We spoke about and identified human needs such as safety, love, food, etc., and heard that every action is an attempt to meet a need. Martha gave examples of various manners of speaking, some of which conceal the needs we might overlook if we just take the words for what they are and do not look deeper.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on an overview of the work we do and how we work with the Tides Center. Both Martha and Kobi sat in all the discussions to help us identify needs and practice empathy. Old stories and histories unfolded and disagreements of the past became tangible. It took some interventions from our facilitators to help people hear each other, and acknowledge and respond to one another.
Valerie Lucznikowska, Guantanamo Program Manager gave a concise and informative presentation of the work she has done and will be doing on the topic. She presented her research, and briefed us on the history of Guantanamo, including two Executive Orders pertaining to GITMO. Valerie helped lead a discussion around the issue, including which goals PT should be focusing on during our work on GITMO. Out of 6 goals, the one about