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. Many people were scarred by their experience in Peoples Temple and in Jonestown. Instead of finishing high school, Vilchez moved to San Francisco, where she lived in the church. He was 18 and running a temple construction crew when the church sanctioned his marriage to a talented 16-year-old singer, Ollie Wideman. image caption Jonestown survivors and their friends gathered at a 38th anniversary event "Sometimes when we gather, people speak or we sing songs. She gave her house to the Peoples Temple and they moved to San Francisco. And the temple was his life — first in Indiana, later in California. © 2020 Canoe.com, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. After the temple exodus to Guyana, he was given a public relations post in Georgetown — and was part of the basketball team. After the temple exodus to Guyana, he was given a public relations post in Georgetown — and was part of the basketball team. Finally, the list of survivors who were neither in Jonestown nor Georgetown include: 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 says his daughters have seen him gnash his teeth when he talks about his father, but they also have heard him speak lovingly of the man who taught him compassion and other virtues. Of course, even if he wanted to forget Jonestown, his name was an ever-present reminder. John was attending a San Francisco high school when he was allowed to join his best friends in Jonestown. To cope, he says he abused drugs and exercised obsessively. 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. More than 300 Jonestown victims were children. As a San Francisco high school student, he was dispatched to help build Jonestown. He too was a member of the basketball team. 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. As a San Francisco high school student, he was dispatched to help build Jonestown. It marched for four jailed Fresno newsmen. 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. And the temple was his life — first in Indiana, later in California. Jonestown was a commune in Guyana, South America, created by Jim Jones, a preacher and leader of the Peoples Temple cult. He is the author with the late John Jacobs of “Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Stephan Jones and some other team members believe they might have changed history if they were there. Jonestown survivors look back, 40 years later. But Stephan was the biological son of Jim and Marceline Jones. The day was cathartic, a "turning point" for survivors and families of those who died, according to Moore. 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. It marched for four jailed Fresno newsmen. This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. 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. For years, Vilchez was ashamed of the part she played in an idealistic group that imploded so terribly. Jonestown survivor talks about escaping mass suicide. 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. But he said his discontent festered. Neither were the White Nights where everyone stayed up, armed with machetes to fight enemies who never arrived. Life became more tolerable after the couple’s baby, Martin Luther Smith, was born. But some lived. Gruelling field work was not to her liking. That’s what triggered it.”. That way no one else would want to live. “People ask, ‘How can you ever be proud of your father?’” he said. Jim was the Rev. 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 … For an optimal experience visit … “This is really crazy,” he recalls thinking. Rescue came the next day. Those who broke rules were disciplined. Dozens of members in Guyana slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away that day. “We were trying to build a new world, a progressive socialist organization.”. When a friend invited her family to Peoples Temple’s wine country church, they were impressed by the integrated community. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Stephan believed he was too cowardly to follow through with the oft-threatened “revolutionary suicide.”. Jim Jr. would lose 15 immediate relatives in Jonestown, including his pregnant wife, Yvette Muldrow. “Like everyone else, he died there,” his son said. The Joneses adopted a black baby in Indiana in 1960, and Jim gave the 10-week-old infant his own name. 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… But in 1973, John’s oldest brother and a sister, along with six other California college students, quit the church and became its enemies. The 21-year-old Indiana native felt pride pioneering in the distant jungle of Guyana, South America. 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. He was summoned to the temple radio room. He was a master manipulator and was the youngest person ever to win the show at age 22. “Like everyone else, he died there,” his son said. With their lives, the story of Jonestown continues, even now. Vilchez was dispatched to the Guyanese capital of Georgetown to raise money. Vilchez worked as office manager at a private crime lab for 20 years and now, at 61, sells her artwork. Grueling field work was not to her liking. The reunion with Jones was not as joyous. “I believe 100% that not everyone would have been dead,” he said. In code, his father told him everyone was going to die in “revolutionary suicide.”, “I argued with my Dad,” he said. JONESTOWN SURVIVORS: Where they are 40 years later. He too was a member of the basketball team. He built a long career in health care, while weathering his own serious health problems. 29. The 21-year-old Indiana native felt pride pioneering in the distant jungle of Guyana, South America. When Smith reunited with his mother and wife in Jonestown, Ollie was 8 1/2 months pregnant. The 21-year-old Indiana native felt pride pioneering in the distant jungle of Guyana, South America. They had done their research, and they figured out who would present the best case for Jonestown. Read more about cookies here. Jones berated three other new arrivals for misbehaviour on the trip; they were beaten and forced to work 24 hours straight. And Smith’s wife, son and mother died. Ollie worked in the nursery, and Eugene felled trees. This past year, she returned to long-overgrown Jonestown. Though he waved and smiled at Peoples Temple services, seemingly enraptured like the rest, Stephan Gandhi Jones says he always had his doubts. Stephan believed he was too cowardly to follow through with the oft-threatened “revolutionary suicide.”. When Jim Sr., a local Democratic Party darling, met with future first lady Rosalynn Carter, Jim Jr. proudly went along. After more than 22 years at California’s transportation department, Smith retired in 2015. Now 58, he owns a modular office furniture business in the East Bay and is married with a daughter. 40 years on from the massacre at Jonestown survivors recount their harrowing stories ... More than 300 Jonestown victims were children. 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. In the aftermath, he built a new life. Rebelling, they refused Jones’ order to come back. He converted to Catholicism and registered Republican. With their lives, the story of Jonestown continues, even now. 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. Devotion to its ideals bolstered her self-worth. “He made a promise — once we get to Jonestown there is no corporal punishment,” Smith said. Now, Stephan Jones is … Jonestown was the highlight of Mike Touchette’s life — for a time. On Nov. 18 she was at the temple house when a fanatical Jones aide received a dire radio message from Jonestown. "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. Author: Rich Van Wyk OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jonestown was the highlight of Mike Touchette’s life — for a time. 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. “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. “Little Jimmy” became part of their “Rainbow Family” of white, black, Korean-American and Native American children. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. Jonestown survivors and reporters who covered the massacre reflect on how Jonestown still affects them today. He’s never remarried, and Martin Luther Smith was his only child. Then it was boxing matches for adults. Now, Stephan Jones is father of three daughters, ages 16, 25 and 29, and works in the office furniture installation business. 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4. “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. Ollie worked in the nursery, and Eugene felled trees. In the aftermath, he built a new life. ... Those raised in the temple or who joined as teens lost the only life they knew. Jim Jones and His People.”. “We were trying to build a new world, a progressive socialist organization.”. For one thing, you have Survivor… The church provided free drug rehabilitation, medical care, food. He remarried three decades ago, and he and his wife, Erin, raised three sons. “If anything, we felt pity for him,” he said, “and it grew into a dislike, maybe hate.”. 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. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. But the entertainers stayed in Jonestown to entertain Ryan. “Being in Jonestown before Jim got there was the best thing in my life.”. 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