On Nov. 18, 1978,
in Guyana, 918 people of the community of Jonestown killed
themselves, their children, and each other. On this Nov.
18, Vernon Gosney, a Maui resident and survivor of the tragedy,
did his best to commemorate the event and to educate the
many of us who were not even born when it happened.
Gosney’s visit to HPU was arranged by Dr. Brian
Metcalf, associate professor of Psychology, and Dan Morgan,
sociology instructor, in conjunction with the HPU Psychology
and Sociology clubs and Psi Chi Honor Society.
Gosney recounted his experience and tried to help the audience
understand not only the horrific deaths,” Metcalf
said, “but also the lives of those people. How could
this have happened? Why would those people kill themselves?
Why were they in that situation in the first place?
Mr. Gosney may be able to help answer those questions,” Metcalf continued, referring to the survivor’s “extremely
moving, personal story of hope, despair, tragedy, loss,
survival, and back ultimately, to hope.”
Gosney spoke at HPU in October 2005, about his experience
and his reasons for joining the People’s Temple and
the Jonestown community, and the enormous impact these
had on his life. In addition to being shot three times
during the attack on Congressman Ryan and his group who
were leaving Jonestown, Gosney lost his 5-year-old son
and countless other close friends, as well as his hopes
and dreams for the movement he had counted on.
It was an absolutely riveting hour,” Metcalf said, “perhaps
the most amazing, interesting, and touching story I have
ever witnessed, and I am absolutely thrilled that students
have the opportunity to hear him—especially on the
30th anniversary of the horrific event.
Gosney explained that he joined the People’s Temple,
as did thousands of people, eager and hopeful to make the
world a better place for themselves and their children.
Imagine the horror and crushing disappointment the survivors
of this movement had to face, to see their dreams and ideals
dashed in such a dramatic and puzzling way,” Metcalf
said. “Gosney wanted desperately to make this a better
world. Today, he continues to realize that dream in ways
that he probably wouldn’t and couldn’t have,
imagined or predicted, nor—certainly—would
have wanted. One way is by sharing his story with you—helping
people understand this horrific event and the people caught
up in it—and thereby helping to educate and warn
people about some deep realities of normal human nature.”
To learn more about Gosney and his last appearance at HPU,
and to listen to an audio recording of that talk, visit: