View Full Version : 30 Years Later, Survivors Remember Jonestown Massacre

11-16-2008, 03:31 PM
Dark clouds tumbled overhead on that afternoon 30 years ago, in the last hours of the congressman's mission deep in the jungle of Guyana.

With a small entourage, Rep. Leo Ryan had come to investigate the remote agricultural settlement built by a California-based church. But while he was there, more than a dozen people had stepped forward: We want to return to the United States, they said fearfully.

Suddenly a powerful wind tore through the central pavilion, riffling pages of my notebook, and the skies dumped torrents that bowed plantain fronds. People scrambled for cover as I interviewed the founder of Peoples Temple.

"I feel sorry that we are being destroyed from within," intoned the Rev. Jim Jones, stunned that members of his flock wanted to abandon the place he called the Promised Land.

That freakish storm and the mood seemed ominous — and not just to me. "I felt evil itself blow into Jonestown when that storm hit," recalls Tim Carter, one of the few settlers to survive that day.

Within hours, Carter would see his wife and son die of cyanide poisoning, two of the more than 900 people Jones led in a murder and suicide ritual of epic proportions.

And I would be wounded when a team of temple assassins unleashed a fusillade that killed Ryan — the first congressman slain in the line of dutytreat to Jonestown for what would be his last stand.

Yulanda Williams was about 12 when she began attending temple services in San Francisco with her parents. Her father, lured by Jones' reputation as a Christian prophet with healing powers, believed that the minister helped him recover from a heart attack.

In 1977, as news media were beginning to investigate disciplinary thrashings and other abuse in the temple, Jones summoned Williams and her husband to Guyana.

Upon arrival in Jonestown, the couple felt deceived. It was far from the paradise Jones described. People were packed into metal-roofed cabins, sleeping on bunks without mattresses and using outhouses with newsprint for toilet paper. There were armed guards, and Jones warned that deserters would encounter venomous snakes and hostile natives.

The preacher, who once charmed U.S. politicians and met with future first lady Rosalynn Carter, had turned into a pill-popping dictator who sadistically presided over harsh discipline. "I felt like I was in a concentration camp and he was Hitler," Williams said.

...link (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,452787,00.html)

Quite a long article summarising the history and aftermath of the massacre.

For some more lesser known information see this: (http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/Articles/bellefountaine.htm)

...Because Milk and Moscone were murdered so soon after the Jonestown tragedy, there was immediate speculation that Peoples Temple was somehow involved. Ann Kronenberg, Milk’s hand- picked successor, told Milk biographer Randy Shilts, that when she first heard Milk was murdered, she thought Jim Jones was responsible. Rumors began to circulate (and some persist today) of obscure connections between Jim Jones and Milk’s murderer, Dan White. Vague rumors of a falling out between Milk and Jones also surfaced. One story has it that Milk asked Peoples Temple to remove his name from the church’s list of supporters when reports of violence and theft first came to light, and that he was outraged when the Temple failed to comply with his demand. Eventually, history settled on an official story: Jim Jones was a master manipulator who used unwitting local politicians to gain power for himself. The politicians, including Milk and Moscone, used Jones for volunteers and votes, while remaining personally distant and blissfully unaware of rumors of Temple violence, abuse, theft and even murder. The timing of Dan White’s murderous rampage was deemed coincidental.

However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that Harvey Milk was a strong advocate for Peoples Temple and Jim Jones during his political career, including the tumultuous year leading up to the Jonestown tragedy. Milk spoke at the Temple often, wrote personal letters to Jim Jones, contacted other elected officials on the Temple’s behalf, and used space in his weekly column to support the works of the Temple, even after the negative New West article went to press. Milk appeared in the pages of the Peoples Forum, the Temple newspaper, and received over fifty letters of sympathy from the residents of Jonestown when his lover, Jack Lira, killed himself in September 1978.

It is readily apparent from the letters and historical memorabilia that Milk and the Temple enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship until their concurrent deaths. Why then is the relationship such a secret, even taboo to discuss? The only biography of Milk to date, The Mayor of Castro Street, by Randy Shilts, downplays the Milk/Temple relationship, even going so far as to paint Milk as one of the countless people who cruelly ridiculed and ostracized the surviving Temple members and their supporters. Like most historians, Shilts opted for an image of an expedient politician, instead of truthfully portraying how Milk worked with Peoples Temple until the end of his life.
... more ...

11-16-2008, 04:15 PM
I can hear them chanting "Hope, Change, and Yes We Can" at every pause in Jim's sermons about the new utopian society they were to create.

Pass the Kool-Aid

11-16-2008, 08:59 PM
I can hear them chanting "Hope, Change, and Yes We Can" at every pause in Jim's sermons about the new utopian society they were to create.

Pass the Kool-Aid

That's what happens when people fall victim to the cult of personality and looking at things that have occurred in the last few weeks I can see as a society we still haven't learned our lesson.

11-17-2008, 06:19 AM
Tim Reiterman wrote a book called "Raven"...it is one of the best and certainly the moist well researched of any on the subject.

He was also at Port Kaituma,..I would recommend the book highly.

11-17-2008, 10:21 AM
I picked up a really interesting book over the weekend, called Prophet's Daughter, written by Erin Prophet, the daughter of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant. It's a very honest look at the inner workings of a cult, that could have ended in a tragedy like Jonestown or Waco, but didn't. The author was deeply involved, a defender of her mother when they went into bomb shelters at one point because her mother predicted a nuclear war, and is now looking at what happened from the perspective of her mother now being disabled with alzheimer's. There are a few comparisons to Jonestown, but I guess one difference would be that CUT members weren't homicidal or suicidal.

I saw a show on The History Channel a few years ago about the Jonestown tragedy. They interviewed Jones' son, who was a teen at the time and was away from the compound at the time of the suicide with the Temple's basketball team. He said that his dad tried to get him back for it and his mother, who was usually loyal to Jones, ensured that he was kept away. I felt such sympathy for him, I don't know if someone could ever get over something like that. One of the things that I learned from watching that is that it wasn't a mass suicide, it was a mass murder. Many of people were forced to drink the koolaid, and those who refused were injected with cyanide or forced at gunpoint to drink the koolaid. Some gave up after the children were killed, as they were killed first.

The Harvey Milk connection is interesting-I think Jones took a lot of people in with the social and political things his group had done in San Francisco prior to leaving for the jungles. Most politicians try to get to know the religious leaders in their area. I'm sure Harvey Milk also had connections to Glide Memorial Church, too. But with an insane leader like Jones, he could have turned on Milk (or perceived that Milk had turned on him) and ordered him to be killed. From what I understand, after the tragedy, there were rumors about all kinds of things floating around the Bay area. There were rumors that Jones had a lookalike in his place and that he actually escaped from Jonestown before he ordered everyone dead.

If there was proof of a connection between Dan White and the Temple, I'd believe that Jones had Milk killed. But I think Dan White had a basic case of homophobia, that Harvey Milk was abrasive and made cruel jokes at his expense, and that Dan's personality was one that just couldn't handle that.