That phrase has become so much a part of our venacular that I had almost forgotten what it referred to... the mass suicide deaths of Jim Jones followers in Guyana. Thirty years ago. I remember seeing the congressman and the others shot on the television, after they had visited Jones church site. And then, after the Congressman Ryan died, Jim Jones had everyone drink grape koolaid laced with poison. It's as shocking now to remember it as it was then to watch it on the news.
By the time the airstrip gunmen _ among them, Joe Wilson _ returned to Jonestown, Jones had gathered his people in the pavilion and, weaving words of desperation, had begun preparing them for the end. Then he used news of Ryan’s shooting to convince the throng that they had no hope, no future, no place to go. "The congressman has been murdered!" he announced. "Please get the medication before it’s too late. ... Don’t be afraid to die."
When potassium cyanide-laced Grape Flavor Aid was brought forward, Jones wanted the children to go first, sealing everyone’s fate because the parents and elders would have no reason to live. With armed guards encircling everyone and with youngsters bawling and screaming, medical staff members with syringes squirted poison down the throats of babies.
The killing already was underway when Carter was sent to the pavilion. Frozen in horror, he saw his own 15-month-old son Malcolm poisoned. Then his wife Gloria died in his arms. "I wanted to kill myself," he said. "But I had a voice saying, ’You cannot die. You must live.’"