Today, I found an interesting news article my mother had saved from November 18, 1988 in a school manual I was researching. It was a 10 year anniversary memorial on the Jonestown Massacre, and because it’s coincidentally the anniversary of the incident, I feel I should do a post on the subject.
The Jonestown Massacre, November 18, 1978
Historical Importance of the Jonestown Massacre: It was the most deadly non-natural disaster in U.S. history until September 11, 2001 and has a death toll of 918.
Founded in 1956 by Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple was a racially integrated church that practiced “apostolic socialism”. Jones originally established the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis and then moved it to Redwood Valley, California in 1966. He later found a remote location in the South American country of Guyana, where he leased some land to build his utopian society. In 1977, the Jonestown compound in Guyana had several hundred members.
Jonestown was meant to be a utopia, however, many of the members ended up wanting out. Unfortunately, because the compound was surrounded by miles of jungle and armed guards, no one could leave without Jones’s permission. And Jones didn’t want anyone to leave.
Eventually, U.S. Representative Leo Ryan from San Mateo, California hears reports of physical and psychological torture from Jonestown residents’ relatives and decides to go to Jonestown to find out for himself what was going on. He takes his adviser, an NBC film crew, and a group of concerned relatives of Peoples Temple members.
At first, everything looks fine to Ryan and his group, but he later receives a note that some of the people are being held against their will.
The following day, November 18, 1978, Ryan offers to take anyone who wishes to leave Jonestown back with him to the United States.
Ryan’s group, on board a truck with the few dissenters, makes it to the airport. However, as they’re waiting for the planes to get ready to leave, some Peoples Temple members show up and start shooting.
Five people were killed on the tarmac, including Congressman Ryan, and many were severely wounded. A few escaped into the jungle.
Back in Jonestown, Jones spoke to his congregation and said that it was time for them to go through with their “revolutionary suicide.” Jones claimed his supports would go down in history by saying they chose their own way to go and that they refused capitalism in support of socialism.
Large kettles filled with grape flavored Flavor-Aid (not Kool-Aid) and poison were placed in the pavilion.
On that day, November 18, 1978, 912 people died from drinking the poison–the majority of them doing this WILLINGLY. 276 were children. Jones died from a self-inflicted single gunshot wound to the head.
Only a handful or so people survived, either by escaping into the jungle or hiding somewhere in the compound.
People want to believe that those people were crazy and ‘it couldn’t possibly happen to me.’ But it could happen to almost everyone… Those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.
Never forget that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Such a scary tragedy.
I remember that. I didn't realize it was that long ago. Time sure flies.
I remember that too. I was ten. Sucks that my parents didn't filter the TV at all, huh?
Don't drink the cool-aid.