This November 18th marks the 40th anniversary of what is now known as the Jonestown Massacre, when more than 900 Americans — members of a San Francisco-based religious group called the Peoples Temple — died after drinking a cyanide-laced drink at the urging of their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, in a secluded jungle settlement in Guyana in South American. Until 9/11, the Jonestown tragedy represented the largest number of American civilian casualties in a single non-natural event.
ABC News presents Truth and Lies: Jonestown, a new special — which premieres September 28th at 8 p.m. on ABC – that documents the tragedy through the lens of Jones’ two surviving sons, Jim Jones, Jr. and Stephan Jones. In this exclusive clip of the documentary, we get a glimpse of the moving testimonies.
“I’ve been given a lot of photographs from the Temple,” says Stephan Jones. “And I’ve spent hours and hours identifying every photo. It may seem like a small thing given the devastation of Jonestown. But that’s where I found my healing.”
The special also includes new interviews with other former Peoples Temple members, including Deborah Layton (who wrote Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple), Leslie Wagner-Wilson, Yulanda Williams and Laura Johnston Kohl.
We now see this as a horrific episode, but some former members remain frustrated with the attention heaped on Jones and still say the mission was positive and time spent in the group were the best years of their lives. “They weren’t crazy people, they were people who honestly came into the organization and cared” another voiceover states. “The greatest tragedy, is not that they’re dead, but they were not able to succeed in their dream.”