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tv   Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown  CNN  November 17, 2013 1:00am-2:01am PST

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this is the way jonestown looked the day it died, november 18th, 1978. >> die with a degree of dignity. lay down your life with dignity. >> a self-proclaimed religious paradise in guyana in south america. carved out of the jungle by jim jones, a man who called himself god. >> how very much i've loved you. how very much i've tried my best to give you the good life. >> who convinced his followers to kill their children and then kill themselves. >> let us be done with it. let's be done with the agony of it. >> drinking a kool-aid-type fruit punch laced with deadly cyanide. >> something to put you to rest. oh god. >> 30 years later in a place where words could kill and did, there is silence. an empty field, the people gone. almost no trace of their lives or dreams. this is the site of jonestown's open-air meeting hall where i'm standing right now, where the reverend jim jones led his
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followers into the worst mass murder and suicide pact in america's history. only small golden flowers grow where bodies once lay. on that fateful morning there are more than 940 people living u in jonestown. by nightfall only 33 would still be alive. for most of the few who did survive, it took incredible courage to defy jim jones and step away. this is their story. one of desperation and daring and in the end a story of human triumph amid horrible tragedy. >> it was a slave camp ran by a mad man with a huge ego. >> as a young mother leslie wilson went to guyana because her husband had taken their son there. in jonestown, she found not enough food, not enough sleep, too much fear. >> for me to think i was going to see the age of 21 was a miracle. i didn't think i was going to see 21.
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>> she recoiled the first time jim jones called together peoples temple members for a suicide drill. >> and i remember him looking at me and me looking, please, don't ask me to do this because we really didn't know if it was real or not. >> on the last morning she said she wanted to take her child on a picnic and started on a day-long trek to a town 30 miles away. >> everyone can look up and see us walking, and i was just shaking. i was so, so frightened. >> for years, leslie wilson would not let anyone know she was a jonestown survivor. >> because i would sit at the table sometimes at work, whatever, and they would talk about jonestown. i didn't say a word. i mean, i lived under a veil of secrecy for 20-something years. >> vernon gosney, now a policeman in hawaii, remembers jonestown as an armed camp supposedly to guard against outsiders.
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>> but many of the times the guns were pointed towards us. >> gosney wanted to leave as soon as he arrived but couldn't until a california congressman, leo ryan, came to guyana in the fall of '78 on a one-man investigative mission. >> i had decided i was going to pass a note asking for help to escape. >> by that next afternoon, as gosney dragged his trunk towards a departing truck, more than a dozen others had decided to go. >> i thought i was going to die at any moment. i never thought that i would ever be permitted to leave. >> when the group reached the small airport nearby, gunmen opened fire. >> there was blood everywhere, and i thought i'm dying and then i blacked out. >> that same day, gerald parks, seen here in the blue and white shirt, talking with jim jones, sensed it was his last chance to
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get his family out. >> you can feel death in the air. you can actually feel it. >> the parks family asked to fly back with congressman ryan's group. >> and i told him who i was and i said we've been held prisoner here. >> at the airport, a tractor pulled a farm wagon up alongside their plane. >> about five or six guys stood up and pulled their guns up and started firing at us. i heard my mom holler, my god, look at patty. >> jerry parks' wife was killed and so was congressman ryan and three newsmen. parks ordered his daughter tracy, her older sister and three other youths to run for safety into the jungle. >> we ran too far, and, of course, it's so thick that, like, once you get so far you
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can't -- you get lost in your direction. >> before night came, we went back to the jungle and started hollering for the kids and no response. and i thought oh, my god, don't tell me they're lost. >> i was the organizer, and anything that needed organizing they gave to carter. >> tim carter, seen here in '78, was a trusted aide to jim jones. he saw jonestown through different eyes. >> it was beautiful. i mean, something about nature, being in the jungle. it was beautiful. >> carter stayed almost till the end. he saw the gunmen come back from the airport. >> the tractor trailer that had come from the airstrip came up behind and stopped at the kitchen. and these guys jumped out and he said we got the congressman. >> that's when the reverend jim
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jones told his people this would be the day they'd have to die. >> the congressman is dead. please get us some medication. it's simple. it's simple. no convulsions with it. it's simple. just please get it. >> the children were killed first. >> tim carter saw his 1-year-old son poisoned. >> malcolm was dead. his little lips covered with foam. this is what happens with arsenic and cyanide as it foams at the mouth. >> he held his wife as she died. >> i put my arms around gloria as she was holding malcolm and just kept on sobbing i love you so much. i love you so much. >> carter lived only because he was sent away on a final errand. he came close to shooting himself that night. >> and i knew that i would never get the sounds and the smells and the sights of jonestown out of my mind ever again.
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>> so few survived jonestown. for most only by determination borne of desperation. for others by a twist of circumstance. over the next two hours we will follow the lives of these survivors, then and now. "escape from jonestown" continues.
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the reverend jim jones left no doubt as to who he thought he was. >> when i say, i'm god, then i feel it well up in my soul and i see the sick healed and the blind see and the dead raised. >> in truth, he was a liar, a charlatan, a phony faith healer. this from the same sermon in 1972 talking about a 90-year-old with a bad leg. >> his leg was healed instantaneously because he saw me as god, god, god, god, god! >> watch this woman who jones said had a broken leg. a helper cuts through the cast. >> now the leg was broken yesterday? now run!
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>> jones asks if she feels any pain. >> jump up and down real quick. no pain whatsoever. that's it. >> they traveled around the country and held these meetings, pulled these fake healings and fake miracles and people would shell out money like you wouldn't believe. >> this is jerry parks as he looked back then. he was fooled for years. >> but it was all through lies and fake healings and all that stuff. the man was fake. i know now that he was fake from the beginning. >> by his own account, jim jones was born on the wrong side of the tracks in a small indiana town in the depression years. at 21, jones became a student pastor by taking a correspondence course. within a few years he had started his own church in
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indianapolis. named it peoples temple and opened its doors to african-americans. he and his wife marceline became an interracial family through adoption and embraced racial harmony in an era that resisted it. but even then jones preached of catastrophe. >> at that time the cold war was going on, and he was saying a bomb was going to fall and there would be a nuclear war. >> in the mid-'60s, jones moved his church outside the town of ukiah in northern california. >> he got this revelation to come to ukiah, california. and there was a cave out here. >> a cave in the hills around redwood valley that would shield everyone from nuclear fallout. >> i know now as sure as i'm sitting here and i knew and have for a long time there was no
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such place. it was all one of his lies. >> jones built this church and offered sanctuary there, a safety net to the elderly and poor, usually blacks from the inner city. they signed over their social security checks and the peoples temple cared for them for the rest of their lives. >> he built this whole thing on the premise of brotherhood, economic equality and a world where no babies go to bed hungry. >> jerry parks and his family followed jones from the midwest out to ukiah in 1966. jerry got a job in a supermarket. >> he started talking about everybody giving 25% of their income. i sat down one time and figured after i got back how much money i gave that man, and it was around 76,000 bucks. >> his youngest daughter tracy learned to fear jones when she started school and was told to stay away from other children.
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>> if you got caught talking to people that were not affiliated with the church then you would be in trouble for that. >> trouble at jim jones' wednesday night meetings. he called them catharsis, the purging of evil. >> so i was scared to do anything wrong because i was scared i would be called up and be beaten. >> leslie wilson was 13 when she first encountered the peoples temple and the hold it had on members. >> what happened in catharsis? >> if you were doing something incorrectly which nine times out of ten someone would find something you did incorrectly you would be called to the floor and disciplined. >> how? >> either by a paddle or being spanked. >> you were hit? >> uh-huh. >> in front of the whole church? >> oh, yes. >> grown people? >> yes. >> spanked? >> yes. >> who did the spanking? >> whoever he deemed to do it.
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>> her mother joined the peoples temple as a haven where leslie's sister michelle on the right could get help for her drug problem. as a minister, leslie said, jim jones could be spellbinding. >> he could quote scripture and turn around and preach socialism. he appealed to anyone on any level at any time. >> even so, racial equality came with exceptions. >> the majority of the congregation was african-american. >> the people who ran the church, the leadership, were they majority african-american? >> no. they were majority caucasian. >> the dark side of jim jones was always there. what did you have to call him? >> father. >> like he was god? >> correct. >> jones would boast openly in church about his sexual couplings with both women and men. >> for me sitting there listening to it, i thought it was insane. and i don't understand, soledad, why my mother didn't grab our hands and run like crazy when he spoke of having sex with men and
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women on the pulpit. i don't know what drove her to stay. i'll never have that question answered. >> just ahead, rehearsing suicide. >> five minutes later jones says, you've all just been poisoned. you have an hour to live.
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this is the peoples temple membership, now numbering in the hundreds in redwood valley, california, in the '70s. by then tim carter was already getting an early taste of how it would all end. >> we had a very small vineyard on the ranch in redwood valley. and they said, hey, grapes would come in from the ranch and they have wine, does anybody want some wine? and so each of us got this styrofoam cup filled with -- three-quarters filled with wine and drank the wine and like five minutes later, jones says, you've all been poisoned. you have an hour to live. >> it was a test for jim jones' trusted inner circle. they did not panic or resist. >> now when i look back on that whole thing now, you know, you think that might have been the wake-up call that it was time to get out of dodge? yeah, absolutely. that should have been -- i should have been gone the next
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day. >> carter stayed on. he was a marine vet who survived some of the worst fighting in vietnam. he came home bitter, a cynic, a hippie and joined the peoples temple in 1973. that same year, jim jones reached a deal in guyana to begin clearing land in the jungle for a future settlement he would call jonestown. jones chose guyana because its government was socialist, its people black and english-speaking. it is a small country, not even a million people on the north coast of south america. >> beautiful promised land. >> beautiful promised land. those were jones' words for his creation, a place where he and his people could practice socialism, live in harmony and answer only to themselves. >> we wanted to have a better world. you know, a better society, one
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without racism, sexism, ageism, economic equality for people. >> verne gosney joined the church in california about that same time. he and his wife, an interracial couple, were welcome. >> the peoples temple was a rich tapestry of people. they were people who had survived adverse situations, racism, discrimination, just very difficult lives, and they had triumphed to that point. >> in 1975, jones moved his church headquarters from redwood valley down to san francisco to a larger stage where he became a political force and a face in photo-ops. >> roslyn carter was campaigning for jimmy carter. i believe that was 1976, and there was going to be a rally downtown. literally, we stuffed the
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building. we were the rally. >> this photo of tim carter with the woman he loved, gloria, was taken at the golden gate bridge during another public appearance. >> when jim jones was asked to give the benediction for the new suicide prevention barrier that had been erected. >> that's right. only a year before jonestown took its own life, jim jones was praying over a suicide prevention barrier. in that summer of 1977, jones was facing increasing criticism from some members who fled the church because they no longer believed in jones. when "new west" magazine published an expose article about church beatings, jim jones suddenly decided to leave the country. he began putting his flock on planes to south america, by the dozens, day after day. teenagers and young children
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were among the first to go. parents followed. >> i got this phone call that says, it's time for you to go, and this voice entered my head that said if you don't go now, you will never see your child again. >> leslie wilson had become pregnant at 18. this is her son jakari. the father took the boy to guyana first so leslie followed. what was it like in guyana? beautiful? paradise? >> not paradise by any means. >> did it feel like you were in captivity? >> oh, right away, right away. your passports were taken right away, seized. >> and this did not raise red flags or it did? >> it did. in your heart of hearts you had to know that there was no way out. there was no way out. ♪
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>> tim carter praised jonestown in this testimonial. >> it's beautiful. i can't -- i've never been so totally happy or fulfilled in my life. >> as long as he was not being eaten up by bugs. you could see him scratching the bites. these are home movies made by jim jones to attract church members to his namesake. >> american bananas are nothing like these. >> he showed off the supplies. >> flour, flour, rice, black-eyed peas. >> and then this. >> kool-aid. >> kool-aid. the reality of jonestown, hard work, long hours, too much heat, too little sleep, and as leslie wilson remembers, meager food.
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dinner was rice ara sometimes soup with chicken feet sticking out. >> she wrote this letter to a friend there in jonestown. >> i now feel as if my whole is being worthless here. i'm now 21 years old and my life will surely consist of nothing more than it does now. >> at the bottom she wrote -- >> destroy this now. >> but at a wednesday catharsis meeting -- >> my letter was being read by jim in front of the whole congregation, and if i could have crawled in that guyanese soil and dug a hole so deep, i would have done it. i was just in fear. >> your best friend turned you in? >> my best friend turned me in. >> as punishment, leslie was placed on a hard work detail. for her the promised land was a failure. >> we're not going to make a difference in the world because no one knew about us. no one cared. we were just this bunch of folks living in the jungle, surviving.
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>> the utopia was a hoax? >> it was a hoax, and that realization itself was overwhelming. >> when we return, a secret plan to kill. >> cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting poisons. i would like to give about two grams to a large pig to see how effective our batch is.
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as soon as jerry parks arrived at the entrance to jonestown in the spring of 1978 with his wife and youngest daughter, he saw guards with guns. >> i seen those armed guards. that's when my heart fell. i knew then that once i got in jonestown, i knew then that i had made the biggest mistake of my life. >> reverend jim jones' home movies helped lure parks and his family to guyana. >> it was going to be a city right in the middle of a jungle and made it sound like really a paradise.
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>> instead, he found -- >> hell on earth. >> jerry parks complained about the heat, the food, the confinement. >> life don't get any worse than that. that was literally a jungle prison. >> in front of the congregation, jim jones told parks -- >> the only other thing you can do is either adjust and walk through the jungle and it's meet snakes and panthers and all that [ bleep ] and one wants to do that and guns. can be arrested by police and be put in a federal penitentiary. >> jones would punish parks. >> he called me up front and he says, i hear you want to go back home, and he started beating on me. he had two, three security that were karate experts hammering on me pretty good. >> parks was put on a hard work crew out in the hot sun digging ditches.
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in jonestown, even his 11-year-old daughter tracy parks got up for work before dawn each day. >> i had to work in the rice fields. you had to use a big machete or the big rake that had the knife at the bottom and you had to cut the grass down. >> one day she went to the infirmary with an earache. >> and they looked in there and pulled out a cockroach the size of my -- half of my thumb, huge. >> tracy parks saw no future in jonestown. >> i knew that in the first month there that i'm stuck here and that i'm most likely going to die here. >> verne gosney came a month after the parks. he brought his 4-month-old son mark. his wife had fallen into a coma during childbirth and never came out. gosney sank into a haze of drugs. >> i did use heroin. i used amphetamines.
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i used cocaine, marijuana, lsd. >> he came to jonestown to get clean and did. >> their idea of a drug treatment was, you know, work you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and if you mess up, beat your ass. i mean, that's their drug treatment program. >> he soon found jim jones controlled everything. >> it's a dictatorship. it was supposed to be a socialism, but it really was fascism. >> jones' own words. >> this organization is built upon the dictatorship and i am goddamn it very much the goal. >> jonestown was failing. not much was growing in the fields. most food had to be shipped in and jim jones had begun to talk about another move, to communist russia. ♪ long live this socialist dream ♪ >> that's beautiful. >> church members were told to
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learn a new language. >> you had to say something in russian before you could get anything to eat. little old ladies coming up, older people, elderly people, you know, they couldn't do it. they couldn't memorize anything and they would turn them away. >> yet unknown to parks, unknown to gosney or almost anyone outside the inner circle jones was already preparing for their death. this is a memo written to jones by the peoples temple doctor six months before the mass suicide. it reads in part -- >> cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting poisons. i would like to give about two grams to a large pig to see how effective our batch is. >> the test apparently was never carried out, but that's not the point. while in guyana we made a startling discovery. the church had been buying cyanide long before most of the members arrived here in jonestown. cnn has learned that for at least two years the church was buying a quarter pound of the
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deadly poison each month. by the time congressman ryan first began raising questions about jonestown, six pounds or more of cyanide had already been shipped here, strong evidence that the reverend jim jones had been plotting the death of his followers long before that fateful day. we're told jonestown had obtained a jewelers license to buy the cyanide which can be used to clean gold, but there was no jewelry operation in jonestown. in that last year, jones never left the jungle camp, a prisoner of his own making hiding from a court custody fight over this young boy he claimed he sired by another man's wife. jones would summon his people to
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mass meetings they called white nights and rant about suicide if under attack by the cia or the guyanese army or other unknown forces. >> if you're not prepared to die for your children, you will not stand up for your children. >> for months jones will tell parents their children might have to die. >> at some point you will sacrifice your children. you have to make that commitment. >> at one meeting jones tried to get jerry parks to promise to kill his daughter tracy if the camp were invaded. >> how old is your child? >> 11. >> at 11 unless it came to an overwhelming invasion. then we would gently put them to sleep which we have and they would never know what has hit them. we've already prepared for that are. >> and i thought, you know what? am i the only one in this cotton picking group that's got the guts to stand up and say, no, i
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don't want to commit suicide? >> from that moment on jerry parks said, he knew he had to get his family out. >> i knew those white nights he was having was fake at the time, but i also knew that one day one of them would not be fake. >> next, running away from death. >> i was horrified. i was so, so scared.
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in mid-november 1978, congressman leo ryan flew to south america to see jonestown for himself. >> i'm from the united states government, and we're here to inquire into the health and the welfare of american citizens who are here. >> a number of ryan's california constituents were complaining that relatives were being held captive. his legal aide jackie speier who made the trip with ryan was worried about ryan's own safety. >> i placed his will, which i had custody of, in my top desk drawer. >> reverend jim jones was worried some of his followers might try to leave. he warned the members.
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>> see if you can make it to any railway. see if you can get to any passport. try. i dare you to try. you don't know who you're talking to. just because i don't use the language of the church, i am that which they call god. >> that audiotape, like many others, was found later in the radio room of jonestown recovered by the fbi. >> i will see you in the grave, many of you. >> by now jones was deep into drugs himself. an autopsy would show so much barbiturate abuse it should have killed him. church member verne gosney. >> i do know what a person sounds like when they are very impaired from either drugs or alcohol, and he was. at one point he actually needed help walking. >> the day before congressman ryan arrived, jones said this.
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>> i'm going to shoot them in the ass so bad for so long that i'm not passing this opportunity up. i don't care whether i see christmas or thanksgiving, neither one. they don't either. >> when ryan entered jonestown that friday, leslie wilson was waiting for the first chance to run away. >> i remember going to the kitchen and grabbing a butcher knife and sticking it down the front of my pants. ♪ that's the way of the world >> jonestown put on a musical extravaganza that first night in this open-air pavilion. >> an nbc news camera team accompanied congressman ryan. you're watching their footage. >> i can tell you right now that the few conversations i've had with some of the folks here already this evening that whatever the comments are, there are some people here who believe that this is the best thing that ever happened in their own life.
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>> the cheering lasted more than a minute. desperate to leave, verne gosney mistook nbc reporter don harris in the blue for a ryan aide. >> i tucked a note in his elbow as he walked by and the note dropped to the ground, and i picked it up and gave it back to him and told him you dropped something, and a small boy then shouted, you know, he passed a note, he passed a note. >> it said, help us get out of jonestown. >> when i heard that i think verne gosney had passed a note that he wanted to leave, we were just like, oh, my god. >> as word spread, tension grew. time was running out on jonestown for all the children and everyone else. yet their last night on earth would end in song. ♪ no matter what they take from
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me they can't take away my dignity ♪ >> jones forced the reporters to leave and go back to the nearby town of port kaituma. ryan and his aide jackie speier spent the night in jonestown. >> and i was awake a good part of the night thinking, how quickly can we get out of here tomorrow? >> leslie wilson was thinking the same thing. a small group of black members hoped to walk out that next morning to go on a picnic, so they said. but at first her husband, joe wilson, seen here in yellow, a top security guard for jim jones, told her she could not take their son jakari but suddenly he handed the boy back to leslie. >> and we immediately started taking off. and so to say i was panicked is -- i was horrified. i was so, so scared.
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>> nine of them left. these five adults, plus three young daughters in one family and leslie's 3-year-old son. >> and i started carrying him tied to a sheet on my back. >> they had to climb a hill in the open to leave. >> everyone can look up and see us walking. i was just shaking. i was so, so frightened. >> they heard a truck approaching as they reached the thick jungle near the entrance to the compound. >> we dove in and hid the kids. diane, who worked in the pharmacy, had made -- this so ironic a cocktail of valium and kool-aid for the children to keep them calm. actually we were so close to the guard shack that we could hear their voices, their conversations. >> the truck passed. leslie found the railroad tracks nearby that led to another town, almost 30 miles away. >> we did not have a clue if we were going to make it to the next town, but we knew we had to
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leave. >> that railroad is now gone. all that remains is this railway bridge, which leslie remembers with dread. >> i recall a bridge. i have a horrible fear of heights. horrible. it was an area we had across and i just hand to get on my hands and knees and cross it. >> look closely and you'll understand her fears. you can see straight through the railroad ties to the river below. >> she was really scared. i was scared, too. >> robert paul joined up with leslie's group just before that bridge crossing. he had been a security guard for jim jones and believed in jones until he got to guyana. >> at first he was so good and then all that evil came down.
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i thought i'd met god. but i met satan. >> paul and another man also left that morning. the trek through the jungle was exhausting for everyone. >> it was hard. it was hard. we was really tired. >> how difficult was the walk carrying a child on your back? >> oh -- >> three other little kids. >> it was a tough walk. but then, too, it wasn't a -- it was a freedom walk. it was a walk to freedom. >> a passing train stopped and gave leslie's group, now 11 people in all, a ride over the last several miles. when they came to the end of the line in the town of matthews ridge, suddenly they came face to face with more fear. >> walk up to the police station and then we have guns drawn on us. we don't know why. the captain proceeds to tell us there's shootings in port kaituma.
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>> coming up, the last hours of congressman leo ryan and the reverend jim jones.
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you could feel death in the air. you could actually feel it. >> jerry parks had a sense saturday, november 18th, 1978, would be his last day in jonestown, one way or another. >> i knew that we didn't have long. i knew that if we got out of there, it was going to have to be pretty quick. >> parks wanted his family to leave with the others who walked away that morning. >> i had clothes staged in a plastic bag in the tall grass where i worked. >> but then he seen someone approaching it. >> i seen him pick up the bag and start walking. first thing i thought, oh, no, someone has turned us in. >> so his 64-year-old mother, edith parks, sought out congressman ryan's aide jackie speier.
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tim carter seen here overheard the conversation. >> and edith parks walked up to jackie speier, and said, i'm being held prisoner here. i want to go home. >> this is jackie speier walking back with edith parks to talk to the rest of the family. in this nbc video from that day. tim carter will never forget what a jones loyalist said to him. >> and she goes, well, it looks like we're all going to die. >> speier tape-recorded a statement by the oldest daughter, brenda park. >> what is your wish today? >> to go back home. >> and where is home? >> the u.s. >> jackie speier walked off to find jim jones. the woman she passed is patricia parks, jerry's wife, in the last hours of her life. speier confronted jones with the defectors. >> he became agitated, tried to talk with them. he was sweating, beads of sweat
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on his face. >> jerry's youngest daughter tracy parks was confronted by jones' wife marceline. >> first off i thought this was the day i was going to die. >> marceline left her an opening. >> i said, if you take me to them, i'll talk them out of it. >> jerry parks faced down jim jones. >> i said, what the hell have he done for me beside hold my family prisoner here for seven and a half months? >> as jerry parks turned away -- >> i look over there. he's sitting on the bench and he's sitting there, a dejected, beaten man. >> yet, another confrontation awaited jim jones when he sat down with nbc reporter don harris for an interview. >> last night, someone came and
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passed me this note. >> harris gave him vern gosney's note asking for help to go home. >> that's who we're talking about. he want it is leave his son here. >> in fact, vern gosney had to agree to leave his young son mark behind before jones would let him go. >> all decisions around my son i -- well, you know, will haunt me for the rest of my life. >> jones raged at harris. >> people play games, friend. they lie. they lie. what can i do about liars? are you going to leave us? i just beg you. please leave us. we will bother nobody. anybody that wants to get out of here, they can get out of here. we have no problem about getting out of here. they come and do it all the time. i don't know what kind of game -- people like the publicity. i don't. >> this guy turned -- the wind came up strong and it was just torrential rain.
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>> when the rain came, the parks family and others took shelter in an open-air shed. that's little tracy parks on the right in the blue windbreaker. jim jones is there, too, talking with the bogue family who had been among jones' earliest followers and now wanted to leave, as well. >> that really -- that sent shock waves through me. >> jones moved over to talk to edith parks and her family. young tracy was distraught. >> i was crying and wiping my tears with the hat. the tears were not anything other than i was scared to death. i was really down deep in my heart thinking, we're going to die. >> this is the last shot of the reverend jim jones that day as his grip on people was cracking. the rain stopped.


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