Letter from Christopher S. Knight-Griffin

To whomever it may concern,

I am writing this letter in support of the Jonestown Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland California. I have been researching the lives, events, and the military involvement through the Joint Humanitarian Task Force sent to Guyana since 2008. During this period I come to recognize the need for closure on the tragedy in Guyana for the survivors and for the sake of history. Jonestown, unlike other memorials, is shifting from memory and fading into the past. Moreover, unlike many other memorials, save for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, many do not list the names of all the victims. This memorial is different. It does list all the names including that of the man whose vision for a jungle utopia became corrupt and deadly to so many but this may not be without precedent.

In 1989, the battleship USS Iowa BB-61 suffered an explosion in the number 2 turret killing 47 sailors. The Navy’s initial investigation cited the culprit responsible for the explosion as a disgruntled and love-scorned Petty Officer Hartwig. Later investigations into the disaster would eventually clear him although his name remains tarnished. His name, as well as the other 46 sailors appear on the monument in Norfolk Virginia despite some linger doubts. The monument, however, is not for him, it is for the survivors.   

The debate over the inclusion of Jim Jones’ name, to me as a historian, is a red herring. The decades long delay in producing a viable monument to the victims of Jonestown is nothing more than a cash cow for the opposing side designed to pry open the survivor’s wallets. Dignity for the deceased will never be achieved through the continued pouring of salt on an open wound. Isn’t healing the goal? The new memorial was conceived and realized within months, not decades, and for a fraction of the cost. Moreover, the new monument is simple, subdued, respectful and above all else, complete. 

Jim Jones, Jr. is a victim having lost a father. John Cobb, Jynona Norwood and every other relative are on equal footing to ask for a memorial for loved ones lost so many years ago but the cost of lost time should not be imposed upon the survivors. The time to forgive and to heal has come. This is why I support Evergreen Cemetery and the Jonestown Institute’s memorial. The importance of this is worth my traveling over 2,800 miles for ceremony. Failure to move forward with the memorial only serves those who wish to serve themselves.

Christopher S. Knight-Griffin
119 Cedar Rd.
Chester, MD 21619

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on May 23rd, 2014.
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