Thirty years ago this week nearly a thousand adults and children lost their lives in Jonestown Guyana.
The settlement was also known as ‘Peoples Temple Agricultural Project’ and was formed by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.
Today – some refer to the mass deaths as suicide – others murder.
We still don’t know all the facts of what happened – how or why.
Autopsies were botched – records and forensic evidence were mis-handled and many of the US government’s documents remain classified – out of reach of FOIA requests.
But we do understand that most of the people who died on November 18 – 1978 drank fruit-flavored Flavor-Aid laced with a variety of intoxicants and poisons: Valium – chloral hydrate and cyanide.
The victims included hundreds of children.
Many of the corpses – including children – bore puncture wounds indicating they received lethal cyanide injections.
Adults who resisted were injected with cyanide or killed by gunshot.
Jones’ followers had moved from their Northern California base to the South American jungle the year before.
The promise: they’d build a utopian – agrarian – interracial community in Guyana – which had a Socialist goverment at the time.
Jonestown was to be free from racism – sexism and ageism – and founded on communist principles.
Jones told his followers to think of him as a living incarnation of Jesus Christ and God.