In a crisis torn, South American country, only little Ann's faith, her determination, and one young woman could help keep her dreams of escape alive.

A true story...
Find a synopsis and other details about Sunday’s Child at my confidence blog (linked). Read excerpts here: List of Books on Amazon


I was only ten in November of 1978, but the feeling that gripped my tiny malnourished throat when I heard of the mass suicide, will stay with me until my hair turns grey.

Not many people in the West knew where Guyana was. In fact, not many Westerners knew that there was even such a place. Whereas, on the other side of the Atlantic, just above the equator in the north of the South American continent, not many Guyanese people had heard of Jim Jones. No one knew, without being told that is, where Jonestown was. But this is a different story with countless political implications.

I was at my friend’s house having lunch before heading back to school. I was a primary school pupil, in what is called fourth standard in that part of the world. My friend’s mother had the radio tuned to the lunch-time Calypso programme when there was a sudden break in the steel drum rhythm and the news reader came on. “Breaking news,” he had said. And then told of the peculiar story of how more than nine hundred people lined up and willingly drank Kool-aid which they knew was laced with deadly poison.

Of course, as a little child - a sensible one - I thought that it was most absurd. Why would any one stand in a queue to volunteer to be killed? My life as a physically and emotionally abused child was enveloped with misery and pain so it was odd for me to feel such terror at the idea of death.

I told myself that surely, it was a mistake and that the people were unaware of the Kool-aid’s deadly ingredient. But I was wrong, there were pictures in the newspapers the next day, and the next, and the next after that. They showed hundreds of murdered people lying like mere piles of dirty laundry on the ground. In my child’s mind the pictures made dozens of photocopies and filed them neatly away under ‘long term’ memory.

There were images of families bunched together, face down in the grass, almost giving an impression of a sinister scrum. I saw pictures of dead mothers still holding equally dead babies tightly to their hearts. Some of the newspapers printed pictures of the boundless piles of shoes collected at the site after the bodies were moved. And still more on their front pages, showed little knitted booties of babies whose mothers had spoon-fed the tainted drink to their unwitting infants before swallowing a cupful themselves.

Until attempts were made to match earlier photographs to one of the dead bodies found apart from the masses, there were speculations that Jim Jones had escaped, because only very few people had even a fleeting recollection of what he looked like.

Some Guyanese people still like to say that he didn’t die. What is certain though, is that this American preacher had, after allegedly fathering dozens of babies by various women, somehow managed to brain wash his devotees not only to give up their homes in America and follow him to a third world former British colony, but to kill themselves and their children, submitting to a whim of his putrid, devilish mind.

It was later revealed that not all of Jim Jones’ followers met their deaths by drinking the Kool-aid. Some were found shot at a nearby airstrip, apparently trying to escape the afternoon drink on offer at the People’s Temple of doom.

I followed this story with the rapt attention of a middle-aged reporter in need of a better twist to a macabre story. It naturally, didn’t help me with my personal abuse problems as they got worse and I lived every day in the hell Jim Jones might have created if he had any power at all.

Because of its use of death as an escape, this story did discover for me a bizarre outlet which - apart from in my nightmarish dreams – I never really even considered using. And though I didn’t understand it clearly at the time, it brought to my attention the fact that unlike those people whose pictures I had studied, I did not choose to be victimised.

I was only a child, and like in the case of those children whose little booties made the front page of the national paper, grown ups are the ones who make the decision to either protect or violate the lives of little angels.

When President Carter mourned for the dead, it was for the shot Congressman Ryan, the NBC news reporters and the other Americans who lost their lives at the hands of his own citizen. Our dead and that little twisted piece of history that should not have been ours, will live in multimillion pixels in my mind forever. After all, my late uncle was one of the soldiers sent into Jonestown for a frenzied clean up right after the massacre.


Leigh Russell said...

Sad. Do you like to escape into fiction? I write crime fiction and it's great fun - but it's pure fiction.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

yes, I do write fiction sometimes, here's a link,display/sid,236

Thanks for posting


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