Teri Buford O'Shea fled Jonestown three weeks before all its inhabitants committed suicide. Here, she explains why the tragedy should be a cautionary tale for everyday people. On November 18, , Jim Jones and more than members of his People's Temple committed mass suicide in the jungle of Guyana. Since that time, the event has occupied a grotesque but fringy place in American history. Jones's followers are imagined as wide-eyed innocents, swallowing his outrageous teachings along with his cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Teri Buford O'Shea remembers things quite differently. It was , and O'Shea was homeless when a man pulled up alongside her in a van. He told her about the community where he lived -- a place, he said, where no one had to worry about food or housing. The leader was a visionary who was building a new future. O'Shea gladly took the ride.
The Atlantic Crossword
James Warren Jones May 13, — November 18, was an American preacher, civil rights activist , and faith healer turned cult leader who conspired with his inner circle to direct a mass murder-suicide of his followers in his jungle commune at Jonestown , Guyana. He launched the Peoples Temple in Indiana during the s. Jones was ordained in by the Independent Assemblies of God and in by the Disciples of Christ. He then left the United States, bringing many members to a Guyana jungle commune called Jonestown. In , media reports surfaced of human-rights abuses in the Peoples Temple in Jonestown. Representative Leo Ryan led a delegation to the commune to investigate. While boarding a return flight with some former cult members who had wished to leave, Ryan was assassinated and four others were murdered by gunfire. Jones then ordered and likely coerced a mass suicide and mass murder of commune members, of them children, almost all by cyanide-poisoned Flavor Aid. One writer suggests this was primarily because he found it difficult to make friends.
Who Was Jim Jones?
In , Rev. Jim Jones, the religious cult leader and civil rights activist, hinted at things to come. Just two years later, on Nov. He sold the destination as an agricultural commune rich with food, where there were no mosquitoes or snakes and where temperatures hovered around a perfect 72 degrees every single day.
Until the September 11th attacks, the tragedy in Jonestown on November 18th, represented the largest number of American civilian casualties in a single non-natural event. It is unfathomable now, as it was then, that more than Americans — members of a San Francisco-based religious group called the Peoples Temple — died after drinking poison at the urging of their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, in a secluded South American jungle settlement. 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. Nearly 40 years later, the infamous and horrific event continues to fascinate us through numerous books, articles and documentaries.