*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.
On April 10, over three hundred individuals came to Carter Hall and listened to the experiences of a strong and incredible woman: Laura Johnston Kohl. She is a survivor from the Jonestown massacre in 1978. Here is a synopsis of my interview with Laura.
JW: Laura, when were you involved with Peoples Temple?
LJK: From March 1970 to November 1978.
JW: When did you move down to Guyana?
LJK: March 1977.
JW: How old were you when you joined Peoples Temple and when you left Jonestown?
LJK: I joined the Peoples Temple when I was 22 and 31, when I left Jonestown.
JW: In your talk last night, you spoke about your positions at Georgetown and Jonestown. Can you explain what those positions were?
LJK: My main job was a procurement agent in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. I would buy food and other materials needed at Jonestown. When I was at Jonestown, I served as an agricultural retrieval team leader.
JW: How many Jonestown survivors are there currently from Guyana?
LJK: There were 87 survivors when we left Guyana; however, I believe there are only 45 today.
JW: Do you and the other survivors share similar experiences from Jonestown?
LJK: No, we do not. Our experiences are completely different because we had different interactions and positions at Jonestown.
JW: One final question, you mentioned last night you love receiving emails from people. You gave your email. Can you repeat your email for our readers?
LJK: Yes. It is ljohnstonkohl@gmail.
JW: Thank you Laura for your time and your talk last night. It was very informative and eye opening.
LJK: You are welcome and thank you for asking. I hope I can return to USI for another talk soon.
If you are interested in learning more about Laura and her experience, feel free to email Laura. She has published a book, Jonestown Survivor: An Insider’s Look, and a copy is available at Rice Library.