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By nightfall, the seriously wounded, some of them on litters provided by the community, were sheltered in army soldiers’ tents. [38], Jonestown was held up as a benevolent communist community, with Jones stating: "I believe we're the purest communists there are. [15] Though its roots and teachings shared more with biblical church and Christian revival movements than with Marxism, it purported to practice what it called "apostolic socialism". At the end of the day, 918 people had died in Guyana: five at the Port Kaituma airstrip, four in Georgetown, and 909 men, women and children in Jonestown. Two men, Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes, were able to bypass armed security through a combination of luck and deception. The Peoples Temple office in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. It appeared in the Examiner on Nov. 20, 1978, two days after the tragedy: Exclusive: Eyewitness account of massacre. April 11, 1978. [198] The case has not been solved. Davis told Jonestown inhabitants that they were at the vanguard of revolution, and right to resist what she called “a profound conspiracy” against them. So did everyone else. In all, there were over 900 who died in Jonestown, including Jim Jones, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. According to former members, Jones would not tolerate defections from the mission project and many of the church members considered those who leave to be traitors. As the visitors prepared to return to the U.S., Peoples Temple gunmen ambushed them on a jungle airstrip, killing the congressman, Leo Ryan; three newsmen; and a church defector. We couldn’t know then that the grim little world of this sick man would shatter within hours, taking hundreds of his followers to their deaths. I wondered why it happened. A year later, Tyrone Mitchell, whose parents and siblings died in Jonestown, fired a rifle at a Los Angeles schoolyard, killing one person and injuring more than 10 others before fatally shooting himself. ", "Jonestown and City Hall slayings eerily linked in time and memory. He traveled down to Georgetown with a group of 18 people on November 14, and three days later was granted entrance to Jonestown. It began with a note smuggled to us from two members. Mother Divine responded by kicking him and his followers out, but not before Jones managed to poach a very small number of Peace Mission members to join him on the bus ride back to California, according to Reiterman’s book. Jones refers to an 'Omega' on one tape recorded at Jonestown, the only known time when this title was used. Methods included imprisonment in a 6 × 4 × 3-foot (1.8 × 1.2 × 0.9m) plywood box and forcing children to spend a night at the bottom of a well, sometimes upside-down. [144] While Ryan was unhurt after others wrestled Sly to the ground, Dwyer strongly suggested that the congressman leave Jonestown while he filed a criminal complaint against Sly. The base's mortuary was tasked with fingerprinting, identifying, and processing the bodies. Reiterman has argued that it is impossible to separate Jonestown from its political and social context. James Warren Jones" to the Peoples Temple, members of the press, and members of Congress. [99], On October 2, 1978, Feodor Timofeyev, a Soviet citizen, visited Jonestown for two days and gave a speech. “Destroyed,” he said, “from within ...”, Courtesy of The San Francisco Examiner, http://www.sfexaminer.com, FILE - This November 1978 file photo shows the Peoples Temple compound, led by Jim Jones, after bodies were removed, in Jonestown, Guyana. [51] After Jones arrived, however, Jonestown life significantly changed.

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Rhodes described a scene of both hysteria and confusion as parents watched their children die from the poison. [174] This observation concurs with the testimony of Clayton, who, having previously fled into the jungle, heard the same sounds as he was sneaking back into Jonestown to retrieve his passport. (One of Ryan’s aides, Jackie Speier, survived five gunshots and is now a congresswoman representing California’s 14th district.). [164] Prokes and the Carter brothers were put into protective custody in Port Kaituma.

“Watch him,” those around him were told. “He carried around with him a righteous indignation and passion for the powerless of society and didn’t shy away from questioning the status quo… He didn’t win all his battles, but to Leo, the fight was as important as the outcome.” It Wasn’t Kool-Aid That Poisoned the Temple Members After the attack on Congressman Ryan and his party at the Port Kaituma airstrip, Jones urged his more than 900 followers in Jonestown that they had to commit suicide or else the Guyanese military will come in and take their children away. Jim Jones and His People, still considered the definitive history of the Jones cult. Photographs taken after the carnage forever document the sheer enormity of the event: the bodies of hundreds of people, including children, lying face down in the grass. Although Jones’s followers would later be stereotyped as sinister, brainwashed idiots, the journalist Tim Reiterman argues in his seminal book on the subject that many were “decent, hardworking, socially conscious people, some highly educated”, who “wanted to help their fellow man and serve God, not embrace a self-proclaimed deity on earth”. [8][13], Jonestown resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.

During their time in the Temple, these devoted and hard-working people performed altruistic deeds for the community, and some of them had turned their lives around by getting off of drugs and crime. The Rev Jim Jones and his wife, Marceline, taken from a photo album found in Jonestown, Guyana. Joining him was an older black man who fingered something in his right pocket. All of us were falling and slipping through the mud around a six-wheel-drive dump truck that would take us (the congressional delegation, the press, the defectors and a group of concerned relatives of temple members) to the Port Kaituma airstrip. After checking out the settlement, Ryan was shot to death along with four other people by Temple gunmen at an airstrip. [170] The envelope contained two passports and three instructional letters, the first of which was to Timofeyev, stating: Dear Comrade Timofeyev, The buildings were mostly destroyed by a fire in the mid-1980s, after which the ruins were left to decay and be reclaimed by the jungle. Sign up for Rolling Stone’s Newsletter. The comments below have been moderated in advance. [164] Rhodes volunteered to fetch a stethoscope and hid under a building. [105] Reiterman's subsequent story about the Stoen custody battle prompted the immediate threat of a lawsuit by the Temple. [72] After covering Jones for eighteen months for the Examiner, Reiterman thought it was "shocking to see his glazed eyes and festering paranoia face to face, to realize that nearly a thousand lives, ours included, were in his hands".