Ah, cool green shade, refuge from the blistering glare of the sun. Throw off the hat and dark glasses, open both eyes and relax. The sun hurts my eyes and burns my skin bright red. I recall sitting in a bathtub of cool water with tea bags to sooth the heat and itching of sunstroke when I was only three. I automatically shielded my sensitive left eye with my hand, and my little brother, who is normal, did the same.
Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple promised refuge from an uncaring world. I am outcast too, yearning to belong. We lived and worked Black and White together. It was challenging, exhilarating, exhausting. My graphic design skills, too slow for the “real world,” were needed in the Temple. I did my best and it was good. The Publication Crew was slated to move to Guyana, but I secretly did not want to go. I dreaded the tropical sun, the heat and bugs and isolation. Fate intervened. Jonestown poisoned. The news came via CBS radio. My heart stopped, everything stopped. Everything lost–friends, future forever lost.
Survivor. Coward. I hid disagreement to avoid disapproval. Now, in dreams I say “No” to Jim. Now it’s too late. It’s not my fault, what happened there, but I’m sorry–so sorry.
Patti Chastain Haag, 1992