JONESTOWN’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY and PUBLIC CURIOSITY

We are running towards the 35th anniversary of Jonestown. Thirty-five years ago this November, we lost 918 wonderful and dedicated people. A new interest in Peoples Temple and all things Jonestown is underway. Just within these past few weeks, I have been on the Ricki Lake show, and I will appear at Puget Sound University, California State University – San Marcos, Western Washington University and Fresno Pacific University. I will also speak to libraries, Quaker venues, and other communities. Today, I was contacted by a 17-year-old Irish student about an on-line interview. I also received a note from the nephew of a friend who died in Jonestown. He said that no one in his family speaks of his uncle or his uncle’s family. He thanked me for the kind words I expressed about him. This spring, other survivors are part of a multi-week program at Bucknell University. And, finally, Leigh Fondakowski has just published her book, lovingly written about the interviews she and her colleagues collected for her play, “THE PEOPLES TEMPLE.”

Since I first started opening up about my experience with Peoples Temple at the 20th anniversary in 1998, I have been interviewed hundreds of times. I have been interviewed by all media types, and have been in a number of documentaries. I have also been interviewed by researchers, authors, and multitudes of students. There has never been a time without at least one person in contact with me about writing a paper. I have also written many articles for The Jonestown Report, an annual publication put out by the Jonestown Institute.

I published my book, JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look, three years ago – March 2010. It originally came out in hard-bound, soft cover, and eBook. Last year, I added it to Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook. I expect to have it available as an audio book soon.

I still teach full time in San Diego, but I travel around the country a lot on Book Tours. Sometimes, I make a connection with event organizers and I explain that I am a Jonestown survivor, and that I would like to arrange a Book Talk. Then, I am told that there may not be much interest in such an historic but distant event. Inevitably, I get a callback. Yes, after speaking with others at their business, they have found that there is great interest.

These days, the sixty survivors from Guyana, and those who were part of Peoples Temple still living in the United States, are taking ownership of that experience. More and more, the survivors want and need to clarify and expand on the event. And, communities seem to be very curious to find out more.

My desire always is to ensure that my loved ones are not forgotten. I treasure my memories. I feel different levels of nervousness before speaking events, but always feel like a heavy burden is lifted off of my shoulders afterwards. The audiences seem willing to help lift the burden, and to gain a better understanding of the mystery surrounding Jonestown.

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