Hometown Hero Promotes Peace

February 18, 2011 Updated Feb 18, 2011 at 7:44 PM EDT

By Jaclyn Asztalos

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February 18, 2011 Updated Feb 18, 2011 at 7:44 PM EDT

Terry Anderson will forever be known as a teacher, journalist and former hostage.

"One of my wise journalistic friends said that when you die no matter what you have done you will always have ex-hostage in your obituary. I said that's ok," Anderson said.

Anderson was on assignment in Lebanon when he was taken captive in 1985. He was released in 1991after his older sister Peggy fought for years to bring him home.

"She did it for seven years full time out of her life. I admire my big sister a lot," Anderson said.

Anderson is a native of Batavia and a hometown hero to those who live there. He spoke to students at his alma mater Batavia High School about his experience in captivity, the importance of the freedom of speech and forgiving his captors.

"Somebody asked me how I feel about my captors and I said I'm Christian and I have to forgive and I'm going to do that. The funny thing about forgiveness is that it's a long journey and it takes you to very surprising place," Anderson said.

Students like Maura Chmielowic were awed by his story.

"Anytime you have that brutal happen to you and you make it through. It's really an inspiration for everybody involved," Chmielowic said.

Founder of the Peace Garden Foundation Paula Savage also asked Anderson to be the spokesperson for their garden that will be planted downtown in the spring. Organizers said it is one of 20 gardens that promotes peace internationally.

"It's going to be a constant reminder to people that peace is where we have to be," Savage said.

Anderson said he hopes this garden will symbolize not just what he went through but also his triumph over this tragedy.