JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Responds to a Student Request about a Peoples Temple Musical

This week, I was contacted again by a student. As a teacher, I ALWAYS tend to say yes to students who take on tough jobs. Here is how he introduced himself:

I am a student at …. I have done numerous reports on the Peoples Temple and have read and researched quite a lot about Jonestown, so let me start by saying that I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I am also shocked and astonished at how many young people today do not know what happened in Jonestown – and that to me is a real tragedy. I am an actor, musician, singer and writer – plays and musicals are what I do best. I want to create a musical based on the Peoples Temple and what it really was like and would like your permission to include characters based on you and your loved ones in the show. I also would like to ask you a few questions if at all possible. I understand if you are not comfortable with this, but I feel compelled to write this in hopes that it will touch and inform even just one life.

I agreed to participate.

Here are his questions: Was there a moment in Guyana when you wanted to leave and go back to the United States?  Was there something in particular that Jim Jones did that made you think twice about being there?  I know that you were not in Jonestown on that fateful day; where were you when you found out what had happened there?  Who were you closest to in Jonestown?

1.  There was never a moment that I wanted to leave. Since I missed all the clues – I realized at the end that if Jim had died in those final days, I would have stayed on – as would some of the others including his family. I can clearly remember, when I was driving on opposite sides of the street in Guyana ( a vestige of the British), that I could forget about ever driving on the side of the road we drive on here. Because – I never planned to go back.
2. I watched every detail of Jim when I first moved into Redwood Valley and Peoples Temple – for 2 years. Then I stopped. I was convinced. So, in San Francisco and then in Guyana, where I lived in both Georgetown and Jonestown for about 20 months, I did not watch him or notice what he did. I wasn’t there for him, I was there for the community of Jonestown. I never noted his disintegration. I was in denial.
3.  At the end of October 1978, Jim had sent me to Georgetown to trade places with others working there – buying supplies, getting parts for our equipment, community relations, picking up folks at the airport, taking people to medical appts, etc. I lived in the Georgetown house with about 40 others, including the basketball team that was in town for a competition with a Guyanese team. I learned when I came back from a political event, and the Guyanese Defense Force (sort of like our National Guard – not scary, just young guys) came to the house. They had us sit down and they brought four body bags out from the back of the house – Sharon Amos had gotten the coded message from Jim for us to join up with the people dying in Jonestown, and kill ourselves. She was not able to talk Stephen Jones into spreading the word. He stopped it all, and called SF and LA and told them all to disregard the instruction. Sharon went ahead and killed herself and her 3 kids. No one outside of Jonestown died that day – other than at the airstrip.
4.  My closest friends in Jonestown were Alice Ingram, Rennie Jackson, and Joslyn Carter. But, everyone was a part of my family.

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