Keep reading to see photos of the abandoned, swampy village, which is now an overgrown jungle with just a few rusted buildings and vehicle remains. Mike Touchette, a survivor of the Jonestown mass suicides and murders in Guyana, poses for a portrait on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Miami Springs, Fla. “We built a community out of nothing in four years,” recalled Touchette, now a 65-year-old grandfather who has worked for a Miami hydraulics company for nearly 30 years. Stephan helped erect a basketball court and form a team. “When I left at 21, I left a part of myself there,” she said. As a San Francisco high school student, he was dispatched to help build Jonestown. That’s what triggered it.”. There, as part of Jones’ personal security detail, Cobb saw the once captivating minister strung out on drugs, afraid to venture anywhere for fear of his legal problems. Some have come to acknowledge that they helped enable Jim Jones to seize control over people drawn to his interracial church, socialist preaching and religious hucksterism. ... Those raised in the temple or who joined as teens lost the only life they knew. Life became more tolerable after the couple’s baby, Martin Luther Smith, was born. He’s 61 now. “So much was attractive and unique that we turned a blind eye on what was wrong,” he said, including his father’s sexual excesses, drug abuse and rants. The reunion with Jones was not as joyous. In code, his father told him everyone was going to die in “revolutionary suicide.”, “I argued with my Dad,” he said. He built a long career in health care, while weathering his own serious health problems. The murders and suicides were unfolding, 150 miles away. When he was ordered to Georgetown to help with supply shipments, Smith said he concocted an escape plan: Ollie and other temple singers and dancers, he believed, would soon be sent to Georgetown to perform, and the family would flee to the U.S. Embassy. Jonestown was a commune in Guyana, South America, created by Jim Jones, a preacher and leader of the Peoples Temple cult. He’s never remarried, and Martin Luther Smith was his only child. As a self-taught bulldozer operator, he worked alongside other Peoples Temple members in the humid heat, his blade carving roads and sites for wooden buildings with metal roofs. He was 18 and running a temple construction crew when the church sanctioned his marriage to a talented 16-year-old singer, Ollie Wideman. Where the machine shop once stood, there was only rusty equipment. Stephan believed he was too cowardly to follow through with the oft-threatened “revolutionary suicide.”. Parvati Shallow, Yul Kwon, Rob Mariano and Michele Fitzgerald: If you've been wondering where these Survivor winners are today, then you're in luck. “There is no way we would be shooting at the airstrip. Gruelling field work was not to her liking. In the days before Ryan’s fact-finding mission to the settlement, the players were in Georgetown for a tourney with the Guyana national teams. Even the dogs that lived in Jonestown had been poisoned and now lay dead on sidewalks near the pavilion. For years, Vilchez was ashamed of the part she played in an idealistic group that imploded so terribly. The violence at the end was tragic and shocking. Rebelling, they refused Jones’ order to come back. His biggest regrets revolve around the team’s refusal to return to Jonestown. And she could only sense the site of the pavilion, the once-vibrant centre of Jonestown life where so many died — including her two sisters and two nephews. To cope, he says he abused drugs and exercised obsessively. Now, Stephan Jones is father of three daughters, ages 16, 25 and 29, and works in the office furniture installation business. People who survived lost everything, and everyone, they had. “There is no way we would be shooting at the airstrip. “Being in Jonestown before Jim got there was the best thing in my life.”. Jonestown survivors and reporters who covered the massacre reflect on how Jonestown still affects them today. This past year, she returned to long-overgrown Jonestown. After the temple exodus to Guyana, he was given a public relations post in Georgetown — and was part of the basketball team. Jim Jones — charismatic, volatile and ultimately evil. But he said his discontent festered. “I said there must be another way.”. Dozens of Peoples Temple members in Guyana survived the mass suicides and murders of more than 900 because they had slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away Nov. 18, 1978. As a San Francisco high school student, he was dispatched to help build Jonestown. Survivors of Jonestown Massacre Look Back. “He made a promise — once we get to Jonestown there is no corporal punishment,” Smith said. It was he who dreamed up Jonestown, he who willed it into being, and he who brought it down: first, with the assassination of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and four others by temple members on a nearby airstrip on Nov. 18, 1978, then with the mass murders and suicides of hundreds, a horror that remains nearly unimaginable 40 years later. He has taken a lead role in a 40th Jonestown anniversary memorial to be held Sunday at Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery, where remains of unclaimed and unidentified victims are buried. Devotion to its ideals bolstered her self-worth. When the prodigals visited, the Cobbs kept it secret from Jones. That helps a lot.” Also coping with the lingering trauma from the siege is fellow survivor Joann Vaega . Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited. Over four decades, as they have built new lives, they have struggled with grief and the feeling that they were pariahs. On Nov. 18 she was at the temple house when a fanatical Jones aide received a dire radio message from Jonestown. It's a sacred time and space. He too was a member of the basketball team. When John Cobb was born in 1960 in a black section of Indianapolis, his mother and older siblings already were temple members. © 2020 Canoe.com, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Four decades after over 900 followers of Jim Jones committed suicide at Jonestown, survivor Tracy Parks recounts her escape from the horrors of the group's compound in the Guyana rainforest But Stephan was the biological son of Jim and Marceline Jones. Rescue came the next day. In this March 5, 2018 photo released by Kevin Kunishi, Jordan Vilchez sits at memorial for mass murder and suicide victims at the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. “The reality was we were folks who could be counted on to stand up,” he said. And the temple was his life — first in Indiana, later in California. “This is really crazy,” he recalls thinking. The murders and suicides were unfolding, 150 miles away. They, too, are counted as survivors, though most of them remained in Georgetown and never got to Jonestown. “She gives us the order that we were supposed to kill ourselves,” Vilchez recalled. In the aftermath, he built a new life. Eugene Smith recalls how his mother, a churchgoing African-American, bought into Jim Jones’ dream after they attended a service in Fresno. Of course, even if he wanted to forget Jonestown, his name was an ever-present reminder. Jim Jr. would lose 15 immediate relatives in Jonestown, including his pregnant wife, Yvette Muldrow. Most of the remaining survivors were Temple members in Georgetown. Four granite slabs are etched with names of the 918 people who died in Guyana— including James Warren Jones, which deeply offends some whose relatives perished. “Like everyone else, he died there,” his son said. It marched for four jailed Fresno newsmen. “Everyone participated in it and because of that, it went as far as it did,” she said. At 16, she was put on the Planning Commission where the meetings were a strange mix of church business, sex talk — and adulation for Jones. He did.”, Tim Reiterman, AP environment team editor, covered Jonestown for the San Francisco Examiner and was wounded when temple members fired on Rep. Leo Ryan’s party in 1978. With their lives, the story of Jonestown continues, even now. “I was going back to retrieve that young person and also to say goodbye.”. Of course, even if he wanted to forget Jonestown, his name was an ever-present reminder. Vilchez worked as office manager at a private crime lab for 20 years and now, at 61, sells her artwork. “What we were calling the cause really was Jim,” she said. Vilchez was dispatched to the Guyanese capital of Georgetown to raise money. Then it was boxing matches for adults. That way no one else would want to live. Dozens of members in Guyana slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away that day. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple, poses for a portrait near San Rafael, Calif. Then, after a 1977 New West magazine expose of temple disciplinary beatings and other abuses, she was sent to Jonestown. Todd Herzog won it all on Survivor: China. image caption Jonestown survivors and their friends gathered at a 38th anniversary event "Sometimes when we gather, people speak or we sing songs. “This is really crazy,” he recalls thinking. After Ollie became pregnant, she was sent to Jonestown; Eugene remained behind. Stephan believed he was too cowardly to follow through with the oft-threatened “revolutionary suicide.”. He was summoned to the temple radio room. “People ask, ‘How can you ever be proud of your father?’” he said. It would become a little town where people of all ages and colors raised food and children. “We were trying to build a new world, a progressive socialist organization.”. The church provided free drug rehabilitation, medical care, food. Jordan Vilchez’s parents were Berkeley progressives in the 1960s — her father African-American, her mother Scotch-Irish. But after temple gunmen killed the congressman, three newsmen and a church defector on the Port Kaituma airstrip, Jones ordered a poisoned grape-flavoured drink administered to children first. Now, Stephan Jones is … Author: Rich Van Wyk “I just have to love him and forgive him.”. This website uses cookies to personalize your content (including ads), and allows us to analyze our traffic. At first it was spanking of children. This June 2016 photo provided by Jim Jones Jr. shows, from left, Ross Jones, 21, Erin Fowler-Jones, Robert Jones, 27, and Ryan Jones, 25, and Jim Jones Jr., in Pacifica, Calif. The 21-year-old Indiana native felt pride pioneering in the distant jungle of Guyana, South America. Eugene Smith recalls how his mother, a churchgoing African-American, bought into Jim Jones’ dream after they attended a service in Fresno. “I believe 100 percent that not everyone would have been dead,” he said. And Smith’s wife, son and mother died. Jonestown survivor Jakari Wilson (above) is serving life in prison for attempted murder. He’s 61 now. Now 58, he owns a modular office furniture business in the East Bay and is married with a daughter. “In an hour, that promise was broken.”. “Everyone participated in it and because of that, it went as far as it did,” she said. Then it was boxing matches for adults. The Joneses adopted a black baby in Indiana in 1960, and Jim gave the 10-week-old infant his own name. Dozens of Peoples Temple members in Guyana survived the mass suicides and murders of more than 900 because they had slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away Nov. 18, 1978. He was briefly romantically involved with Spencer Duhm, a contestant on Survivor: Tocantins. We know of many other violent deaths involving Jonestown survivors and former Temple members. Stephan Jones and some other team members believe they might have changed history if they were there. When Jim Sr., a local Democratic Party darling, met with future first lady Rosalynn Carter, Jim Jr. proudly went along. But after temple gunmen killed the congressman, three newsmen and a church defector on the Port Kaituma airstrip, Jones ordered a poisoned grape-flavored drink administered to children first. He has taken a lead role in a 40th Jonestown anniversary memorial to be held Sunday at Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery, where remains of unclaimed and unidentified victims are buried. 29. Now, Stephan Jones is … The reunion with Jones was not as joyous. At 16, she was put on the Planning Commission where the meetings were a strange mix of church business, sex talk — and adulation for Jones. It was he who dreamed up Jonestown, he who willed it into being, and he who brought it down: first, with the assassination of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and four others by temple members on a nearby airstrip on Nov. 18, 1978, then with the mass murders and suicides of hundreds, a horror that remains nearly unimaginable 40 years later. When a friend invited her family to Peoples Temple’s wine country church, they were impressed by the integrated community. In the aftermath, he built a new life. This November 1978 file photo shows the bodies of Peoples Temple mass suicide victims led by Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. This past year, she returned to long-overgrown Jonestown. The two survivors of the Jonestown tragedy who recently revisited the scene and relived memories of what they once called home,’ are looking to have … By continuing to use our site, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. “She gives us the order that we were supposed to kill ourselves,” Vilchez recalled. But in 1973, John’s oldest brother and a sister, along with six other California college students, quit the church and became its enemies. But the entertainers stayed in Jonestown to entertain Ryan. When he was ordered to Georgetown to help with supply shipments, Smith said he concocted an escape plan: Ollie and other temple singers and dancers, he believed, would soon be sent to Georgetown to perform, and the family would flee to the U.S. Embassy. “We built a community out of nothing in four years,” recalled Touchette, now a 65-year-old grandfather who has worked for a Miami hydraulics company for nearly 30 years. 40 years on from the massacre at Jonestown survivors recount their harrowing stories ... More than 300 Jonestown victims were children. “The reality was we were folks who could be counted on to stand up,” he said. And I must say, they did. “If anything, we felt pity for him,” he said, “and it grew into a dislike, maybe hate.”. But Stephan was the biological son of Jim and Marceline Jones. Mike Touchette, a survivor of the Jonestown mass suicides and murders in Guyana, poses for a portrait on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Miami Springs, Fla. “We built a community out of nothing in four years,” recalled Touchette, now a 65-year-old grandfather who has worked for a Miami hydraulics company for nearly 30 years. But some lived. And Smith’s wife, son and mother died. He did.”. “People ask, ’How can you ever be proud of your father?”’ he said. Some were part of the group’s logistical base in Guyana’s capital, some were in the city for business or medical reasons, and some were there to participate in a basketball tournament. Plunged into a new world, those raised in the temple or who joined as teens lost the only life they knew: church, jobs, housing — and most of all, family and friends. More than 300 Jonestown victims were children. When a friend invited her family to Peoples Temple’s wine country church, they were impressed by the integrated community. In the days before Ryan’s fact-finding mission to the settlement, the players were in Georgetown for a tourney with the Guyana national teams. Hyacinth remained in Jonestown among the dead, alone, all day. They divorced when Jordan was 6. “Now I just hit the hell out of drums instead of raising my voice. The Jonestown memorial is at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, Calif. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. Life became more tolerable after the couple’s baby, Martin Luther Smith, was born. However, he is now a waiter in Orlando, Florida. Cobb lost 11 relatives that day, including his mother, youngest brother and four sisters. “So much was attractive and unique that we turned a blind eye on what was wrong,” he said, including his father’s sexual excesses, drug abuse and rants. This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Rosalynn Carter’s first name. Where the machine shop once stood, there was only rusty equipment. 29. Jim Jones — charismatic, volatile and ultimately evil. That’s what triggered it.”. When the prodigals visited, the Cobbs kept it secret from Jones. “We were trying to build a new world, a progressive socialist organization.”. He converted to Catholicism and registered Republican. When John Cobb was born in 1960 in a black section of Indianapolis, his mother and older siblings already were temple members. Vilchez was dispatched to the Guyanese capital of Georgetown to raise money. After his stint on the series, Herzog went on to try being a hairstylist. ... More than 300 Jonestown victims were children. “I believe 100% that not everyone would have been dead,” he said. Jones berated three other new arrivals for misbehaviour on the trip; they were beaten and forced to work 24 hours straight. At first it was spanking of children. For one thing, you have Survivor… Ollie worked in the nursery, and Eugene felled trees. The Peoples Temple's pet around the altar, many of them arm-in-arm. The day was cathartic, a "turning point" for survivors and families of those who died, according to Moore. And when her 23-year-old sister joined, Jordan went to live with her at age 12. This November 1978 file photo shows the Peoples Temple compound, led by Jim Jones, after bodies were removed, in Jonestown, Guyana. He went through years of nightmares, mourning and shame. After more than 22 years at California’s transportation department, Smith retired in 2015. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings. "The names of the people who died in the Twin Towers were read immediately, but it took 33 years for the Peoples Temple to get this public memorial," she said. The only child to survive was Stephanie Jones, 9 years of … That way no one else would want to live. Though he waved and smiled at Peoples Temple services, seemingly enraptured like the rest, Stephan Gandhi Jones says he always had his doubts. Stephan Jones and some other team members believe they might have changed history if they were there. To cope, he says he abused drugs and exercised obsessively. “Being in Jonestown before Jim got there was the best thing in my life.” (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson), Connect with the definitive source for global and local news, assassination of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and four others. Neither were the White Nights where everyone stayed up, armed with machetes to fight enemies who never arrived. He remarried three decades ago, and he and his wife, Erin, raised three sons. “Like everyone else, he died there,” his son said. “I focused my rage on Dad and his circle, rather than deal with me,” he said. “I said there must be another way.”. “In an hour, that promise was broken.”. Vilchez worked as office manager at a private crime lab for 20 years and now, at 61, sells her artwork. His biggest regrets revolve around the team’s refusal to return to Jonestown. For years, Vilchez was ashamed of the part she played in an idealistic group that imploded so terribly. After Ollie became pregnant, she was sent to Jonestown; Eugene remained behind. “To me, the ends justified the means,” he said. And she could only sense the site of the pavilion, the once-vibrant center of Jonestown life where so many died — including her two sisters and two nephews. 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4. It marched for four jailed Fresno newsmen. One day, when she was in high school, she came home and told her parents that her religion class had discussed Peoples Temple; only then did her father share the story of how his family was nearly wiped out. “To me, the ends justified the means,” he said. Devotion to its ideals bolstered her self-worth. Many people were scarred by their experience in Peoples Temple and in Jonestown. He is the author with the late John Jacobs of “Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Survivor recounts the Jonestown Massacre 40 years later Decades later a handful of survivors and Indiana families are still tormented by what occurred in the jungle home of the People’s Temple. Within minutes, the aide and her three children lay dead in a bloody bathroom, their throats slit. With their lives, the story of Jonestown continues, even now. Jim was the Rev. But in 1973, John’s oldest brother and a sister, along with six other California college students, quit the church and became its enemies. 40 years after the Jonestown massacre: Jim Jones' surviving sons on what they think of their father, the Peoples Temple today "There's somethings about Jonestown … “Little Jimmy” became part of their “Rainbow Family” of white, black, Korean-American and Native American children. “I’m not saying he didn’t cause it, create it. When Smith reunited with his mother and wife in Jonestown, Ollie was 8½ months pregnant. As a self-taught bulldozer operator, he worked alongside other Peoples Temple members in the humid heat, his blade carving roads and sites for wooden buildings with metal roofs. Ollie worked in the nursery, and Eugene felled trees. It would become a little town where people of all ages and colours raised food and children. Dozens of Peoples Temple members in Guyana survived the mass suicides and murders of more than 900 because they had slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away Nov. 18, 1978. “We built a community out of nothing in four years,” recalled Touchette, now a 65-year-old grandfather who has worked for a Miami hydraulics company for nearly 30 years. In California, he was steeped in temple life. 1998-11-18 04:00:00 PDT SAN FRANCISCO; JONESTOWN, GUYANA-- There were no tears shed at the gathering of family members, friends and survivors who lost loved ones at Jonestown… More than 900 people lived in the agricultural mission, with its dining pavilion, tidy cottages, school, medical facilities and rows of crops. She gave her house to the Peoples Temple and they moved to San Francisco. When Smith reunited with his mother and wife in Jonestown, Ollie was 8 1/2 months pregnant. The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better known by its informal name "Jonestown", was a remote settlement in Guyana, established by the Peoples Temple, a San Francisco-based cult under the leadership of Jim Jones.. “I just have to love him and forgive him.”. The 21-year-old Indiana native felt pride pioneering in the distant jungle of Guyana, South America. Rebelling, they refused Jones’ order to come back. 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