There were survivors, family, friends, organizers, reporters… And then there was me, the interloper. It was like stumbling upon a large family reunion in a picnic’ized area: any moment I was expecting to be called out as such.
What was I doing there? Who am I?
I have written for the jonestown report for the past couple of years, developing a screenplay about Jonestown from 1975 through 1978. You could say I was there for research, if research means to look at the faces and hear the voices still left behind, to witness the emergence of families and new generations brought forth after 1978.
Would some be bitter? Would they be open to talking? I had to at least try to see – and meet – some of these people if I wanted to capture the spirit of that time period. And I saw, some up close, some from a distance:
Jim Cobb’s laughter
Jim Jones Jr.’s charisma
Stephan Jones’ intensity and intelligence
Jim and Stephan, arm and arm
Tim Carter’s vulnerability
Laura Kohl’s friendliness
Leslie Monique’s beauty
Mac McGehee…in person
The family, the one unit that was the survivor body, the acceptance of their past and hopefulness for their families’ future, that was what I took home with me.
I want to thank everyone I talked to for listening and considering my own little piece of the Jonestown legacy. I hope to meet again in the course of this journey…
(David Berdass can be reached at David.Berdass@bermo.com.)