Address by Leslie Wilson

Photo by Rex Morningstar

Leslie Wilson: Oh my gosh, this is what happens when love prevails. My name is Leslie Wagner Wilson, I was one of the escapees of Jonestown, Guyana of November 18, 1978. I am so grateful to be here today. I never thought I would see this happen. And I want to give– really give thanks to Mr. Buck [Kamphausen] and Mr. Haulman and the staff at Evergreen Cemetery for giving a resting place to our families when no other cemetery in the United States wanted their bodies. I thank you for that.


Leslie Wilson: I know that God placed the hearts of three men maybe a whisper – Fielding McGehee from the Jonestown Institute, who I also call Mac, and most of us do, and also my gatekeeper to my two brothers, Jimmy Jones Jr. and Johnny Cobb. And even though you still tower before me, you’re still my little brothers – for a thought, an idea, a possibility, and with that, a call to action to where over – I’m sorry – 120 people, families and friends, listened to the call and also saw the possibility. And this is what happens when people of one accord come together, and love prevails.

When I came back 32 years ago, my heart felt like it had been shattered into a million shards of glass. I was like Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and would never be put back together again. Here lies 13– I’m sorry, I lost a total of 13 family members, eleven which lay to rest here and a host of friends that I had known since the age of 13. The first emotions I felt were blame and anger, suicide thoughts and I just didn’t see how my life was ever going to be fulfilled without– with anything more than just a pain of agony of waking up every day. And through the years, what happened was I had two additional beautiful children who are here – Monique Inez, Demetrius – my grandson Junior, another granddaughter and continued a– a bloodline that shouldn’t have been continued by man’s standards. And with that love for them came an overpowering feeling of forgiveness, because without forgiveness, we cannot heal.


Leslie Wilson: And with forgiveness comes love. It goes hand in hand. And so when I realized that now my life had taken a different course, I became a different person. The last two weeks have been enormously emotional, more than I thought, I just didn’t expect it. And what I attributed to that was the fact that I never saw– I never thought I would see this. And then I started thinking about how families of soldiers that are missing in action want their remains back, so they can have closure. And so now, that’s what we have. And I started– just knowing that they were here, I started thinking about my childhood memories, like Sandy Cobb and I purposely working the three-to-eleven shift at the Pierre Chevy Ukiah during the summer so we wouldn’t have to go to Wednesday night meetings–


Leslie Wilson: –to our bus trips across country where, I tell you, those of us in the church, we could sleep and dress anywhere.


Leslie Wilson: –to Jim Cobb, who I thought of as my big brother and used to refer to him as Black Jesus, and he tried to teach me how to play the trumpet; to the perfect smiles of Brenda, Sandy and Joel Cobb; to the rambunctious spirit and light of Eleanor Beam; to Melanie Breidenbach who was so crazy about Joe [Wilson]; and to my sister Michelle, who was just, you know, the rebel of the family, of her beauty and spirit; to my brother Mark who I was so glad at the age of 16 found– did find love; to my nephew Deron, my niece Dawnyelle; to my mom who I was so blessed to be able to see her the morning of November 18, to be able to feel her lips touching my cheek, her arms around me, not knowing that that would be the last time I saw her, and to hear her words, “I love you.”

What we have here is not just a memorial wall, it’s a healing wall. And now we can run our names– our hands across their names engraved in this beautiful stone as they are forever engraved in our hearts. Now we can continue to live their love and not their deaths. Thank you.