My sister, Darlene Ramey, died in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Her name is on one of the four memorial plaques at Evergreen Cemetery. It was only by a decision I made in a state close to terror and panic that my baby and I aren’t on that memorial too.
With that in mind, I have a hard time believing that the people who put together the memorial for the Jonestown victims even considered putting on the name of Jim Jones. Where is the “consideration” for us, the other survivors in this matter? Some of us never threw caution to the wind, and yet we still suffer from this tragedy.
Let me offer my rhetorical spin on this: Should we include the terrorists’ names with those victims of the 9/11 tragedy? How about Martin Luther King’s Memorial, should we include James Earl Ray, his assassin? Or maybe we just ought to include John Wilkes Booth’s name on Abraham Lincoln’s memorial?
One thing I’ve discovered about time: it does not heal all things, but it definitely puts distance on all things. I’ve noticed over the past 32 years that Jim Jones has become nicer and more human in the reflections of people. It brings to mind the words of the song, “The Way We Were,” “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” The fact is, Jim Jones was feared more than loved. It is my opinion that Jim hated us, and I felt his hatred before he went to Guyana. He knew exactly what he was doing, and so did the others in control.
I also find it ironic that Jim Jones had the “privilege” of escaping a cyanide death, unlike my sister and the others buried in Oakland.
A lot of people really don’t like to be reminded of how painful it was. I can still remember when Jim McElvane came to my door one morning and told me I would be leaving on a flight to Jonestown the next day, that he would pick me up and take me to LAX. I can still remember my haste in leaving. I literally threw my belongings from the third floor of the church’s apartment building. I knew I had to save my baby, and I fled and hid for months. Jim McElvane, among a number of others, was definitely not a victim of Jim Jones.
I recognize that I may be in a minority on this issue. Even if I don’t agree with another person’s decision, I have learned to respect it as long as it harms no one. This decision does me no harm, and I can live with it. If this is a choice that others can live with – if this is what it takes for some to have peace – then so be it. I have already found peace, and it didn’t take a slab of granite to get me there. I have forgiven everyone, myself included. I don’t have a problem admitting my part in the process of my brainwashing by Jim Jones. I made a choice 32 years ago that I can live with.
I sincerely hope the other families of those buried in Oakland are comforted by this endeavor.
(Glenda Randolph Bates was the sister of Darlene Ramey, who died in Jonestown. She had a Doctorate in Theology, and passionately preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Glenda was also a board certified lactation consultant. Her numerous articles for this site appear here. She died on March 29, 2022 from pancreatic cancer.)