Keith Hudson: What Survivors for Peace means to me
February 14, 2014 | admin
Keith Hudson is a veteran of the Northern Ireland conflict. He became involved with the Foundation in 2003. Here’s what our programme has done for Keith.
People may have heard of the Foundation for Peace at the Peace Centre and the great work they do. Meanwhile sitting quietly in the background, working hard, is the Survivors for Peace Programme. Yes, I can hear people ask “Who are they?” Ask anyone who is a survivor of terrorist attacks like 7/7 in London; the Madrid bombing; the Manchester bombings; The Omagh bombing or any IRA attack, be they ex forces or civilian, they will tell you.
So you never heard of them? I know them well. I got to them as they were back in 2003, as The Legacy Project. I was the welfare officer of NIVA (Northern Ireland Veterans Association) when Jo Dover asked to me to join. I made contact with Jo and was invited down to the Peace Centre, which is not far from my home in Knowsley.
Jo had just finished the Legacy Project report. I still have a copy. It was the first time anyone had logged events in Northern Ireland and on the mainland, of terrorist attacks, killings and bombings. The report had stories from people on how they were affected.
I became a regular visitor, getting to know Jo. Then just before Xmas 2003 Jo asked me would I like to attend a weekend seminar just outside Omagh. My smile was like a Cheshire cat. I had been back to N Ireland 3 times before. I had paid a quick visit to Omagh.
Another Jo joins us.She was to witness my panic attacks about flying aswe waited at John Lennon Airport. We were flying with Easy Jet and I think they thought the TV crew was around.
Jo had booked a car to get us from sunny Aldergrove to Omagh. She passes me the map and said get us there. I put the map away and said drive on. It was great to see Omagh again. The two Jo’s went for a brew. I, at the age of 53, walk around Omagh on my own for the first time without a gun or my family with me. It was great! I had no fears; just felt happy to see a place without barriers; the scars of the 1998 bomb removed. I went to lay flowers at the memorial to those who died that day. For me too; for those who did not come home on the ferry with us.
So what does Survivors for Peace mean to me? It has been a place I call my safe haven; a place I meet friends who don’t judge. They understand. There is no need to say ”Sorry”, as they have been there too. There is a feeling of friendship. People from many walks of life, who you did not know on a Friday night, but by Sunday morning you feel like you have known them all your life. To hear stories from Mums and Dads about their lost children. People who were in the Madrid train bombing. Hearing from those who were caught up in 7/7 .
It’s not just the weekends. Jo and Ann keep an eye on those who suffer from flashbacks or other problems. I suffer from PTSD. Without the team, I am not sure if I would be typing this story. To hear Jo talk about her visits to many places, offering help and understanding.
Now all this hard work may have to come to an end. I can tell you I am gutted! No words could really summon up how I really feel.
So now I have to do my bit and ask people to support Survivors for Peace. There is nothing else like it. To sit with people and to hear their pain makes you think to yourself, “My problem is nothing.” But it is a problem shared, with others who know and understand. To hear a daughter talk of the loss of her father, it nearly broke my heart.
If you want to know how you can help, to keep Survivors for Peace doing what it does best, for many more years to come.
I have been lucky, others may not be.