JONESTOWN SURVIVOR’S MUSINGS

I have had a wonderful opportunity these past few years. After taking a full twenty years to re-build my life, I rejoined my fellow Peoples Temple Survivors at the 20th anniversary in November 1998. My life has been transformed. In particular, these past two years, I have felt amazingly lucky and rich. Some people would use the word “blessed” here, but that is not who I am. I waited a long time to write my book JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look after my serendipitous survival. I just couldn’t do it any sooner. When I took it on, and when I finished it, I was ready to move forward in investigating details of what happened.

I have had many interviews in every type of media, primarily over the last seven years. Of all of my activities, my favorite has become my conversations with people who have pondered what really happened. I believe that as time has passed, they finally free up their questions and want answers. So they ask the questions I really want to answer. Sometimes they listen to my presentations, and sometimes they are the curious – the ones who have already studied history and want to know what really happened. I love speaking with curious people. As a sixth-grade teacher, I love curious students. As a Jonestown Survivor and history-lover myself, I get tremendous satisfaction when I speak to these people.

Several weeks ago, I gave an Author’s Talk at Bonita Branch Library to a wonderfully mixed crowd – mixed ages, races, interests, and opinions. One older black woman asked me, “Were the blacks who joined Peoples Temple discouraged and just tired of the fight?” I was delighted to answer that. All of the people who became members saw it as a way NOT to get bogged down. We were idealists and optimists who undertook a great commitment – actually leaving the creature comforts of our lives in the United States to move to a wilderness closer to a primitive camp than to a refined finished community. We knew that. People who had given up would not have made that effort. So, the opposite was true. I love the questions that allow me to dispel assumptions or stereotypes that the media mostly spread. I was so happy to offer another point of view. After the question period, this woman and some others came up and thanked in such a heartfelt way. They told me they felt a huge burden lifted off their shoulders. I was so happy to be able to share my insights. They were happy and so was I. It was a very tender moment.

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