On Friday, November 18, 2011, a group of about fifty survivors, family members and friends all gathered at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland on the 33rd Anniversary of November 18, 1978. I was really delighted that some who have never visited the gravesite were able to come this year. There are many victims especially in the Bay Area. Our choice when we come together on these anniversaries is to gather, look at the photo display of all who died in Guyana – that Kathy Barbour has worked on meticulously, and reflect. We have four new panels in the ground this year which list the names of all who died. There are quiet conversations, many hugs, and frequent tears.

No matter what others outside this group thinks, we were the ones most surprised by the events that day. Unquestionably we had clues present during the years we were in Peoples Temple. Some people did pick up on them. Most of the rest of us, including many of the survivors and most of those who died in Jonestown, Guyana, just couldn’t fathom that ending. It was devastating for everyone connected to Peoples Temple, and beyond. There was nothing like it in recent memory. Jim Jones had created his own “code of silence” about his behavior so, even now, thirty-three years later, I find out more details about his decline and his plan.

This year, two more sets of ashes were added to the hundreds of others at the Jonestown site at Evergreen. A mother had held on to two of her children’s ashes for all these years and finally brought them here. We had a brief, reverent burial.

When I have even a brief contact with other survivors and family members, I know how our lives were all dismantled after these deaths. Our continued survival was not guaranteed. But, we made it through. I need this time to be with my friends who didn’t survive. That is what I do that day. It was a peaceful day there. It doesn’t have to be hateful and hostile. We ALL hated what happened. For the most part, people survived for random reasons, due to activities that took us out of Jonestown on that horrific day. We came this year. Where else would we want to spend the day? We’ll keep coming this day or another less public day. Or, we’ll find another spot somewhere safe to allow ourselves to reflect. I know I can’t and don’t want to forget my friends. I know that for me, fortunately, my life has gone on. I am so sorry that our group of survivors is so small, and that the group we honor is so huge.