JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Speaks at York College of PA

This article was posted in the YPC Spartan school newspaper about my visit to York College of PA on October 21, 2013.

Jonestown Survivor Laura Johnston Kohl Visits York College of Pennsylvania
By Melanie King

November 18th, 1978 is a day that drastically changed Laura Johnston Kohl’s life; on that day, she and several others became survivors. Kohl was a guest speaker on the York College of Pennsylvania campus on October 24th, 2013. She talked about her life and her time with the Peoples Temple. Kohl’s life started in Washington, DC with a mother who was involved in politics and believed that we should impact the world in a positive manner.

Much like her mother, Kohl is very interested in politics, and she worked with groups like Students Against Discrimination to integrate the parks of Washington, DC. She also worked with the Black Panthers in New York to hand out free breakfast to people who could not afford food. During her time with the Black Panthers, someone was shot in her apartment, and she decided that she was not going down the right path in life. Her sister called her one day and told to come move in with her. This is how Kohl ended up in San Francisco, CA. Her sister knew some attorneys who knew about Peoples Temple, and Kohl liked the message of equality and integration that they were sending out. Jim Jones founded The Peoples Church in 1955 as a new thought movement. Jones poisoned the people within the movement on November 18th, 1978, killing over 800 people.

In 1970, she moved in to People’s Temple and felt as though she was making a difference. When asked about if there were any warning signs about Jim Jones’ plans for mass suicide, Kohl said she had no idea. Jones had a small group of people whom he told things to, but they were under a code of silence. As Kohl made her way through the lecture, she started to cry. She told the audience to not to worry because it happens all the time when she talks about it. Many members of the audience wanted to know about how Kohl gets through life now. She told the audience that she carries the events of Jonestown with her every day, but she cannot let it hold her back. She is now a Quaker and a bilingual teacher in San Francisco[sic: San Diego]. Kohl said that she is still trying to work for change within the world and give the people who lost their lives on November 18th, 1978 the recognition they deserve.

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