San Francisco honors 40th anniversary of Jonestown massacre

Bay Area

This year marks 40 years since the Jonestown massacre when more than 900 people died after following cult leader Jim Jones to South America.

Several community organizations came together in San Francisco to remember those 917 lives lost. 

They called it a historical “Day of Atonement in Fillmore.”

KRON4’s Dan Thorn spoke with one woman who survived the massacre. 

Yulanda Williams was 21 years old when she escaped from Guyana. 

Williams said it was the first public tribute in San Francisco to recognize the movement and tragic murder-suicide deaths. 

“I’m very happy to see San Francisco is ready to acknowledge this tragic situation that happened 40 years ago,” she said. 

Her mission now is to make people aware of what happened. She also wants people to understand the predatory behaviors of cult leaders.

“It’s important that you’re constantly aware of who you’re following and who is proclaiming that they’re a leader and what their motives are,” Williams said. 

Judy Bebelaar was a teacher to many of the teenagers who were apart of Jim Jones’ church. She co-wrote a book about the teens of Peoples Temple.

“People don’t realize, they think it was a bunch of crazy adults,” Bebelaar said. “Maybe not so much these days. Maybe they’re beginning to understand.”

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