Tuesday, October 11, 2005

10/11/05 A "Landmark" Decision

Laura Hebert is certain that she lost her brother, James Rowe, when he decided to attend a personal development seminar called “The Landmark Forum”. He’s been missing since July of 2004, after having gone to the seminar. In her own words, Laura tells us the story:

“James was living in Crestone, Colorado at the time of his disappearance. He was co-owner of a natural foods restaurant/cooperative. He loved Crestone because of its beauty and spiritual diversity. He enjoyed the outdoors immensely.

On advice from a friend, James enrolled in a seminar put on by Landmark Education, called Landmark Forum. He attended the weekend long event July 24-25 2004, in Denver.

James called me immediately after the seminar to share his experience. He acted very strangely on the phone, he had a range of emotions from giddy and excited to sad and crying. I had never heard him like this and became worried for his well-being. He said things like, "Do you realize we create our own reality, do you know what this means?" He urged me to look into Landmark Forum and attend one myself. We ended the conversation with 'I love yous' and I told him to call soon. This was the last time I heard his voice.

According to James' friends, he had odd behavior after the Landmark Forum. He did strange things such as abandon his vehicle 20 miles outside of Crestone. It contained all of his hiking and camping gear. He left the keys in it and hitch-hiked back to town. He had shoulder-length hair before the forum, he shaved his head afterwards. You can see from his picture that he also had piercings, and he took out all of his jewelry after the seminar. His friends described him as being "scattered and ungrounded".

On July 30th, the day of his disappearance, he asked a friend to drive him to a trailhead so he could go for a hike and get his thoughts straight. His friend did the favor, and drove back to town. Within 30 minutes, James showed up barefoot and confused. His friend asked him if he was okay, James said "No." He said he was having a difficult time telling reality from illusion. He then walked off into the woods, alone.

The friends contacted the Saguache County Sheriff's Department August 3. Land and air searches were conducted on August 5th in the mountain ranges east of Crestone. August 10th, a tracking dog from Delores County was brought in to cover the same areas, but no trace of James was found.

There were unconfirmed sightings in the towns of Alamosa, Salida, and Poncha Springs in the fall and winter of 2004.”

Laura is a runner. While she runs, she thinks of the possible scenarios in regards to her brother’s strange disappearance. She can only come back to one thing: Landmark. She tries to clear her mind of negative thoughts, but it is difficult: “I think James was deeply affected by the seminar, Landmark Forum, he attended, and was psychologically damaged by what went on. I believe he was unable to cope with the ideas and feelings the seminar brought forth, and became overwhelmed and confused. I think he left the woods after his disappearance, and is traveling.

My greatest fear in relation to this is that he has or will hurt himself. It's a difficult fear to deal with, but I try to keep hope that he remembers the unconditional love we, his family, have for him.”

On more positive days, Laura remembers times spent together. “James, my little brother, (J.B. baby, we used to call him) would accompany my other brother Jesse and me on hikes through the woods to go ice skating on a pond near our house. James has always loved the outdoors. He loves to hike and camp.

James became a vegetarian many years ago and was very into natural foods, and his latest interest was raw foods. James believed in living simply, and respecting the earth. He loved music of all kinds, and would often go to outdoor concerts with friends. James is a good listener, and is very personable. James had a problem with drug addiction in the past, but was able to recover and was a wonderful inspiration to others in his support group, and other support groups in the New England area. James really enjoyed being a co-owner of a natural foods/restaurant cooperative in Crestone. He dreamed of becoming a chef someday, and is quite a good cook. James and I used to cook vegetarian meals together when he visited (as I'm a vegetarian as well), I miss that. We would chop veggies and chat about anything and everything.”

Like many missing adult males, James’ story gets little attention from media, whether it is local or beyond. I sent out a press release on his behalf for our 18 Wheel Angels program. The National Center for Missing Adults did as well when James was featured on the Racing for the Missing series. There were one or two stories after his disappearance, and those were very local to that area. Denver media would not touch the story. Lack of media attention is just another frustration for Laura: “I think of all the missing persons I see on different websites, and feel the resources and media attention should be more evenly distributed. Every life is precious.”

In regards to the lack of coverage for missing males, Laura states: “I think it's the helpless woman/child syndrome. The media plays on the idea that the stories of -innocent- (or women and children) gone missing will somehow elicit more empathy and interest from the public. I believe they are racist in omitting minorities in their focus as well. Each missing person's case -should- prompt media attention. I would love to see an expose on Landmark Education in connection to James' story.”

Is there a reporter out there who is willing to investigate James’ disappearance and the possible connection to his having attended the Landmark seminar? Is there anyone who is not afraid of them?

A man named Rick Ross has an entire website devoted to exposing cults. There are numerous personal accounts on his site detailing these seminars and the methodology used on the participants. For those persons interested, these personal accounts are found at http://www.rickross.com/groups/landmark.html

I strongly recommend reading this page as it contains numerous quotes from attendees themselves or friends or relatives. You won’t believe it until you read it.

http://www.rickross.com/reference/landmark/landmarkvisitor.html

Laura does want us to remember that her brother is not just a case of a missing person who may have been mentally harmed by this group. “I see what I remember, a kind, gentle, loving soul. I see a man that strived to live simply, surrounded by nature.

The impact of James' disappearance has been great in my life and the lives of my family members. It happened right before my family (husband, and three children) moved from Massachusetts to Chicago. It has been a very stressful year all-around. It has cast a shadow over our lives in a way that's hard to explain. I feel so sad thinking of him being missing, but yet feel guilty if I'm having fun and not thinking about him. My mother has taken it very hard. We would go over and over the last conversation we had with him, trying to think of clues that might help us find him. My brother Jesse and half-sister Marianne also miss James terribly and think of him often. We had a family reunion for the one year anniversary of James' disappearance, so we could come together and support each other.”

Laura has a message for all of us: “Protect your loved ones and always tell them how much they mean to you. I have become more aware of situations which may put my children in danger of being kidnapped, even though this probably isn't what happened to James. I am always out in the yard watching them play, for instance. They always hold my hands in the mall. If we are out in public, they don't leave my sight. I always remind them that I love them no matter what and they can always come to me with their problems.

Having a missing family member is like living with a hole in your heart. Every time I think of James I wonder where he is at this moment, and what he is going through. I worry for his well-being and hope and pray that he will be found alive and soon. I cherish the memories I have of him, and pray that there will be more. I can't imagine this pain continuing. Someone has to know where he is.”

And to James, she simply says: “James I love you. PLEASE just call -someone- and let them know you're okay. James, we all miss you so much. We love you unconditionally always.”

Laura keeps hope that James will now make the decision to ask for help if he needs it, and to come back home. She’ll be waiting for him.

Please visit James’ website at http://www.findjamesrowe.4t.com

5 Comments:

Blogger BRENNIE'S FRIEND said...

Hey Kelly,

Crazy thing--one of my co-workers has been almost hounding me to go with him to one of his "Landmark" seminars. He comes off to me as weird and his philosophies are strange. I politely turn him down almost every week, as they meet every friday. It always seemed "cultish" to me (for lack of a better word. The young lady may be correct in her assumptions

1:20 PM  
Blogger Kelly Jolkowski said...

Perhaps you should try to get him to read some of those provided links. I'm sure glad you did not attend.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Peggy Roche said...

James...Always remembered and prayed for daily. He holds a special place in my heart since he and my son share a birthday and I hope someday they can meet and we will celebrate with them.

5:22 PM  
Blogger GuruTruth said...

Landmark Education indeed has a controversial history, which has not gotten much exposure of late in the United States media. It has, however, gotten some recent exposure in European media. In 2004, a documentary aired on French television, Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus. About a month later, the French government ruled that Landmark's volunteer "assisting program" was not permitted in the country, and Landmark shut down in France. A similar thing evidently also happened in Sweden in 2004. So you see the power of exposure in the media, if only the U.S. media would take more of an interest...

Here are some more interesting sites with information on Landmark Education: Litigation Archive, Skepdic site, Apologetics Index, more recent legal info at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and there is always some sort of steady discussion going at the Large Group Awareness Training part of the Cult Education Forum.

For some more helpful information about the controversial nature of other Large Group Awareness Training organizations, see the blog:

The Truth about Human Potential Seminars

3:01 AM  
Blogger S.A.L.E said...

S.A.L.E (Stand Against Landmark Education)

how many more minds should we watch be cheated, exploited, reformed, and enslaved into the abyss of landmark's promises to transform? How many loved ones do we watch be transformed into the emotional/psychological/ethical stature of a sociopath, before we unite to bring attention to this $$$ driven entity, and demand it be subjected to legal and ethical regulation?
How many more James Rowes' will it take to bring this atrocity to account for its careless actions via programming it refers to as 'cutting edge' technolgies?

5:07 AM  

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