The first week that I moved to Redwood Valley to be a part of Peoples Temple was highlighted by my new acquaintance with Liane Harris. She came to my house on Road F where I had moved with my sister Diane Lundquist and her two children Dov and Jamal.
Liane and I became friends immediately. It was such a relief to have someone that I did not know show so much interest in me and to also be so welcoming to me. Even though we were about the same age, it felt as though she took me under her wing to assure me that I had a great new friend and that my move to the valley was going to be enjoyable and meaningful. Liane’s big dark curls, bright eyes and huge smile was also heartwarming. I also noticed how when she stood up, she leaned quite a bit to one side. I later learned this was due to some serious spinal problems, but I never heard her complain about them.
In the years that followed I saw how Liane was a friend and mentor to many kids, who seemed to flock around her, and a tutor to others with their homework. She was a natural youth leader who seemed to have a knack for developing and creating activities, inspiring all kids to be participants. She made it easy to become personally engaged with the activities in one’s own unique way.
One activity that we shared was each of us creating separate codes with made-up symbols, then writing a page of text with the symbols, and then exchanging the pages. Each of us would work diligently to be the first to decipher each other’s code. This activity was a good way to pass the time on some of the very lengthy bus trips that we took.
On what turned out to be Liane’s last day of life, I accompanied her while she visited with her father who had come to the house in Georgetown. He had accompanied the group known as the Concerned Relatives and Congressman Ryan to check on the well-being of loved ones in Jonestown. On that day Liane was cheerful and appeared genuinely happy to see her father. I can only imagine how torn she must have felt between a father whose love was apparent and her familiar allegiance to the Temple which held the notion that outsiders – family members included – must be kept at arm’s length. When I think about how awful I felt when my own father had to wait outside to see me when he visited me at the San Francisco Temple, I know in my heart that Liane shared that longing for everything to be right.
I am grateful to have had her as a friend.
(Jordan Vilchez is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other article in this edition is To All Who Died in Jonestown. Her earlier writings appear here. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)