6:51 PM PT – Sun. Nov. 18, 2018
Survivors of the Jonestown tragedy continue to try and rebuild new lives, years after the devastating incident left more than 900 people dead.
John Cobb, a survivor of the massacre, speaks out about his experience living under the leadership of Jim Jones at “The People’s Temple” encampment in Jonestown, Guyana.
Cobb was a part of Jones’s personal security detail but on the day of the tragedy, he was playing in a basketball game in Guyana’s capitol — and refused to return to the commune after learning of the killing of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan.
He said, “I knew he [Jones] was unstable going in, and was concerned about that trip and said to Congressman Ryan, ‘are you sure we should be going?’ He had this sense we would be protected.”
The lawmaker traveled with multiple journalists in order to check-up on the encampment, but were attacked by militants from The People’s Temple, while on the tarmac while trying to escape the compound.
Cobb lost 11 relatives, including his mother, younger brother, and four sisters when Jones led the group to drink cyanide-laced punch after his dreams of a “Utopian paradise” began unraveling.
Talking about Jones’ words describing a sense of “closure,” Cobb doesn’t believe he’ll ever feel be able to find it, but says he’s learning to deal with the loss of his loved ones.
Cobb said for those closest to Jones, it was hard to believe in him, or his lies, and for the year he spent as one of the founder’s bodyguards he was “able to see him for really what he was, and we knew he was wrong.”
Since leaving the group, he has built his own family and furniture business, and has worked with other survivors to create the Jonestown Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California.
He calls the memorial “befitting,” and “one of the better things” he’s done in life, and calls the deceased individuals who died — minus Jones — “great” and “selfless individuals that need to be remembered properly.”