JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Answers questions from College Student

A college student who is studying Peoples Temple sent me these questions. Here are my answers to him:

Here is my BRIEF response to your questions – it took me a whole book to tell it.

  1. What was it like being part of Peoples Temple?
  2. What was Jonestown like?
  3. How did being a part of Peoples Temple change me as a person?
  4. Was being a part of something like Peoples Temple a good or bad thing?

What was it like being part of Peoples Temple?

I was delighted by the family feel with all races and ages and economic levels – a real melting pot. I had spent my high school and college years looking for that kind of community, and had gathered it around me, in college with a diverse friend of friends, in my work with the Black Panthers, in my friends outside of college including those I went to Woodstock with. When I met Jim Jones and his adopted family of all races, and then was part of the entire Peoples Temple family, it was wonderful. I felt protected and loved.

What was Jonestown like?

I first went down to Jonestown with a group of 100 in December of 1974 or 1975. From the moment I got to Guyana, I loved it. People were all different colors – black, brown, white, and everything in between. The tropics are luscious with beautiful trees and flowers and fruits and vegetables. Jonestown was in the middle of the rain forest – a place I never expected I would ever experience. There was just a small crew in Jonestown at the beginning, leveling roads and building dorms and housing, and getting the property ready for planting. I got to Guyana in March of 1977, and moved into Jonestown in March of 1978. I joined all my best friends and adopted family. We worked our butts off and we saw huge growth every week – houses up, plants planted, real progress. I loved it. I had no intention of ever leavin

How did being in Peoples Temple change me?

When I joined Peoples Temple, I was naïve, optimistic, and on the search for a way to make a difference in an outrageously racist and violent world. I learned to be organized, and to be a good worker, and to make life-long friends that I loved with all my heart, as we moved toward making a Utopian community. I was fulfilled, challenged daily, and excited with the life I led in Peoples Temple. I was certainly living a life I never expected. And then, I lost it all.

Now, thirty-seven years later, I feel very strong. I lost it all, and I made it. I have a husband of 34 ears, a 26-year-old son who is a wonderful teacher, and I retired from teaching after several decades. And, I wrote a book that has helped victims of many tragic events, and has helped me survive. I know I could survive most anything. I feel very strong. I don’t have to compromise my principles for ANY thing. I have nothing to lose that I can’t recover from. I am a changed person. I know life is fragile, that everyone carries a burden, and that you just never know what their burden might be. I try to be kind and calm. I don’t tolerate fools or racists. I am surrounded only by tried and true friends. I am not so good at giving second chances, or accepting excuses. So, I am a hard taskmaster and only take my own advice a lot of the time.

Was being part of Peoples Temple a good or bad thing?

I wish Peoples Temple had never existed. I wish I had been part of a similar group that was not headed up by a mentally ill person who would resort to killing 918 people. I wish I had remained vigilant and watchful always, and questioned everything, and argued, and refused, through all the years I was part of Peoples Temple. I wish we all had.

Nothing I learned was worth the price paid. The 918 deaths and the thousands of lives that were destroyed or, at the very least, damaged, destroyed any positive aspects.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,