I said, "I don't love you." And he accepted it. You never
knew, from one minute to the next, how he'd react. He told me one time, while
he was close, that he would like to die while strangling me. He had hands
around my neck. I thought, I hope this
isn't the moment he finally cracks.
From that point on, I minded my manners with Jim Jones. My
mother was schizophrenic, and he started really reminding me of her. I was one
of his many secretaries, and he had me writing all kinds of letters -- letters
to people in the government, letters to people who had defected. When he
started dictating those rambling, 20-page letters, I realized they were the
ramblings of a madman. I knew from my mother that the rational approach wasn't
going to work with him. I needed to keep his trust in me and get out the first
opportunity that arrived.
How did that chance
There were a number of lawsuits going on in United States, calling
on Jim Jones to come back. Jim's lawyer, Mark Lane, had come down to Guyana and
told him there was a conspiracy against him. So Jim sent Mark back to the
United States to handle the lawsuits and take care of the situation.
I suggested that I go back with Mark and work as his
secretary. I told them they shouldn't hire an outside secretary who couldn't be
trusted. So Jim sent me back. I went to San Francisco and packed up my stuff -
what little I had -- and said I was going to the dentist. Then I got the next
plane out to New York. I changed my name to Kim Jackson for the longest time,
until the FBI finally found me.
What was your life
like after the massacre?
I was as shocked as anyone. I was 26, and I'd spent the past
seven years of my life with these people. They were beautiful and hardworking. I've
spent my life since working as a counselor for people with disabilities, both
physical and emotional. I regret being in the Temple, regret my role in it, but
the only thing I can do for redemption is to live my life and serve people as
long as I can. We all wore both white hats and black hats. Except Jim Jones -- his
hat was primarily black with maybe a little polka dot of white.
How do you feel when
you hear people casually use the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" -- as in, "I drank
the Kool-Aid. I love everything Lady Gaga does"?
It makes me shudder. I know it's part of the culture now and
I shouldn't be so sensitive to it. But Jonestown was an important part of
American history, and it's been marginalized. We have to ask ourselves, why did 918 people leave this country and go
with Jim Jones to Guyana? That's a big question. Why did this group feel they'd
rather live in a jungle than in San Francisco, Oakland, Atlanta, wherever they
There's a lot of disagreement
over the word "cult." How would you define it?
A cult is when you aren't allowed to see your friends or
family. I'm not talking about a retreat, or two weeks at a spa. I'm talking
about total isolation -- someone takes all your money and brings you to a place
where there's no communication, or if there is you aren't allowed to use it. Those
are the lessons I took from Jonestown, and that's the message I think the
American people should take from it. Trust your gut and don't give up your
I was fortunate that I had an opportunity to escape and I
took it. Even then, I thought Jim Jones would find me and kill me. I had to get
to the point where I didn't care if I died. I just wanted to have my own life,
however short it might be. My goal, in fact, was that I wanted to live to be 30
so I could have a rich and full life. Now I have a daughter who's 29, and I'm
60. I've had double what I wished for.