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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Guyana After the Jonestown Massacre

Page 7 of 8

The conspiracy came to a head on Saturday, November 18th, during Ryan's visit. Some temple members had deserted in the morning, when security was concentrating on the Ryan party. Now others were saying they wanted to leave with Ryan. Whole families – the Parkses, the Bogues – had turned traitor. They had lied on the floor, lied in front of the entire community when they confronted a father or mother or child. They were more concerned with blood relations than with the cause and Father. Jones looked beaten, defeated. A man named Don Sly flew into a rage and menaced Ryan with a knife, but he was subdued. Newsmen were present. There'd be more smears. Ryan would report to Congress, and the full weight of the United States government would fall on Jonestown.

When Ryan and his collection of traitors left for Port Kaituma, gunmen followed. The shadow forces had won.

An alert was called and the community rushed to the pavilion. Jones told them the congressman's plane would "fall from the sky." He could do things like that. Hadn't he killed the man who put a curse on him simply by burning a passport? At Port Kaituma, a Jones loyalist named Larry Layton, who left with Ryan, pulled a gun. Although Layton later denied it – saying it was his idea to go after the congressman's plane – Jones may have instructed him to shoot the pilot when the plane was airborne. But the party was too large and they were going to take two planes. Layton wounded two, leveled the gun at Dale Parks' chest and fired. Dale fell back, thinking he had been shot, but the gun had jammed. He jumped Layton, and, with the help of another man, wrestled the gun away.

Meanwhile, gunmen arrived from Jonestown and began firing at the other plane. Ryan, Patty Parks and newsmen Bob Brown, Don Harris and Greg Robinson were killed. Others were wounded. The gunmen retreated to Jonestown.

"Those people won't reach the States," Jones told the community. Then he said it was time for all of them to die. He asked if there was any dissent. An older woman rose and said she didn think it was the only alternative. Couldn't the temple members escape to Russia or Cuba? The old woman continued to plead with Jones. She had the right to choose how are wanted to live, she said, and how she wanted to die. The community shouted her down. She had no such right. She was a traitor. But she held her ground, an elderly woman, all alone.

"Too late," Jones said. He instructed Larry Schact, the town doctor, to prepare the poison. Medical personnel brought the equipment into a tent that been used as a school and library. There were large syringes, without the needles, and small plastic containers full of a milky white liquid.

Jones told the community that the Guyanese Defense Force would be there in forty-five minutes. They'd shoot first and ask questions later. Those captured alive, he said, would be castrated. It was time to die with dignity. The children would be first.

A woman in her late twenties stepped out of the crowd. She was carrying her baby. The doctor estimated the child's weight and measured an amount of the milky liquid into a syringe. A nurse pumped the solution into the baby's mouth. The potassium cyanide was bitter to the tongue, and so the nurse gave the baby a sip of punch to wash it down. Then the mother drank her potion.

Death came in less than five minutes. The baby weat into convulsions, and Jones – very calm, very deliberate – kept repeating, "We must take care of the babies first." Some mothers brought their own children up to the killing trough. Others took children from reluctant mothers. Some of the parents and grandparents became hysterical, and they screamed and sobbed as their children died.

"We must die with dignity," Jones said. "Hurry, hurry, hurry." One thirteen-year-old girl refused her poison. She spit it out time after time and they finally held her and forced her to take it. Many people in the pavilion, especially the older ones, just watched, waiting. Others walked around, hugging old friends. Others screamed and sobbed.

Jones stepped off his throne and walked into the audience. "We must hurry," he said. He grabbed people by the arm and pulled them to the poison. Some struggled, weakly. One girl put up a fight and she had to be injected.

After an individual took the poison, two others would escort him, one on each arm, to a clearing and lay him on the ground, face down. It wouldn't do to have bodies piled up around the poison, slowing things down.

Stanley Clayton watched as "one of the brothers came into the pavilion. He was running. When he came in, he started stumbling. He turned and he flipped over and was just lying there. He was suffering. He was shaking and carrying on, spitting up his last spit, eyes turning up in his head. All of them were suffering. I was terrified and looked for a way to get out." Security men with crossbows circled the pavilion. Men with guns guarded the periphery.

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