I was born and raised in Guyana in a village called Bartica (now a town), located on the Essequibo River. In November 1978, I would have been 16 years old, fresh out of high school, and old enough to remember a strange encounter which I believed could be linked to the Jonestown tragedy.
One bright and sunny Sunday morning, around 10 or 11 AM, myself and my friend Dorothy, who was also my neighbour, were walking along the Bartica Potaro road, a few miles away from the village. We were going to visit a classmate named Penny who lived somewhere at the 2 miles point. Her family had a farm and there were lots of kuryu and awara (fruit) trees in the area. This was something we did most Sundays after church.
As we were walking along this road, we saw dust in the distance, which we recognized as a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, so we stepped to the side of the road to wait for it to pass.
As it got closer, we saw that it was a blue Land Rover with three persons in it. This trio seemed to be a family. An adult white female was in the front passenger seat, and there was a plump, teenaged girl in the back.
The driver, a white adult male who seemed to be in his 40’s, stopped to ask for directions to get to Bartica. He seemed frantic and wanted to know how far away he was from there.
We pointed him in the direction he had to take, and he drove off.
But it was the look on the teenager’s face that got our attention. She seemed very scared. There was barely enough space in the back seat for her, with all the luggage and stuff packed high on the seat. These people seemed to be getting away from someone or something.
We talked about them briefly, and then went our way.
It was when I returned home that afternoon, that I learnt from my mother that something terrible had happened somewhere in Guyana, the previous day. She said she heard it on the radio.
Since there were no “live” radio or television shows reporting in those days, only the army were among the first to know. The rest of the nation read about it in the newspapers, which would reach some villages days after publication.
Looking back on it now, I often wonder if there was a connection between the Land Rover people and the Jonestown survivors. Maybe if any of the survivors could recall travelling by road in a Land Rover the day after the tragedy, they could be the ones.
That’s my little memory.