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by By Susie Contreras

 
“I think it’s important,” said DaJuan Parker, 21, a psychology major at HPU, “It’s a part of history, and it’s actually in our time, so it’s important that we get to listen to someone who actually experienced it instead of reading what’s in our school books.” Parker wasn’t able to catch the whole presentation, but he said, “It seemed like he was very informative about the situation.”

A lot has been written about Jonestown, Jim Jones, and the People’s Temple. Even now, 27 years after the 1978 mass suicide which left more than 900 people dead, including more than 200 children, Jonestown is talked and debated about by scholars, survivors, and the general public. Gosney’s son was among the children who were given cyanide-laced Kool-Aid by adults who later drank the punch themselves.

Gosney, who describes himself as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and a gay man, was born in Berkeley, Calif. In 1971 at age 19, he and his wife Cheryl joined the People’s Temple, a group which promoted socialism and racial harmony. They left The People’s Temple when Cheryl became pregnant, but Gosney rejoined after she died of cardiac arrest while giving birth to their son. It was during this time that Gosney started heavily using drugs.

When Jones moved the temple to a settlement in Guyana, South America, renaming it Jonestown, Gosney and his son moved with him.

Jonestown was founded as an agricultural project where the community members could raise food for themselves. According to Gosney, parents brought their children there so they could save them from all the evils of capitalism, racism, and brutality going on around the world.

Gosney tried to leave Jonestown, but on Nov. 18, 1978, when he finally got the chance, he was shot three times before escaping and collapsing in nearby bushes. According to Gosney, he passed out and was found by about 15 Guyanese men who brought him to their tent. He was then picked up by troops, the Guyanese defense force, who saved his life by taking him to a hospital in Puerto Rico. There he found out about the mass suicide, and he suffered a mental breakdown.

Gosney’s story does not end there. He was finally able to stop using drugs, and in 1982 he moved to Maui where he found a job as an undercover narcotics officer. He worked as a narcotics officer for two years and is still with the Maui Police Department.

Gosney said his most difficult decision through it all was his choice to leave his son at Jonestown when he tried to escape. “The biggest thing I have to deal with is the death of my son and my responsibility in it,” said Gosney, “I don’t know if I will ever really completely forgive myself; it’s been a gradual process.”

Through it all Gosney has kept his faith and his belief in mankind. “I still have to believe that we are all still really good,” said Gosney whose main point was, “that people who join cults are not a them, it’s an us…. It could happen to anyone of us.”

 

 

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