LEFT COAST WRITERS BOOK EVENT: And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral
On November 18, 1978, 918 people—one third of them under eighteen, half in their twenties or younger—perished in the murder/suicides.
Part I introduces the 15 Temple students the teachers knew best: those in Cabral’s classes and on the Cobras baseball team, made possible by Temple athletes; and in classes Bebelaar taught, including Creative Writing. Student writing appears throughout the book, including stories by Stephan, Jones’s son, who describes vividly his experiences in his family and in Jonestown.
Part II follows the students to Guyana and draws from research and interviews (many stories told for the first time). Specific incidents illustrate the young people’s resilience and their ability to resist Jonestown’s cruel strictures. The book ends with the final days—both in Jonestown and in Georgetown, Guyana, where the basketball team (including members of the Cobras) plays in a tournament with the Guyanese National Team. Excerpts from the recording of the final night are followed by excerpts of student poems appearing in the first chapters. “Aftermath” describes, much of the telling in their own words, the effect of the tragedy on survivors.
Judy Bebelaar taught English and creative writing in San Francisco public high schools for 37 years. She has received national recognition for her success in helping students find joy in writing their lives. Her poetry has been published widely. Her chapbook, Walking Across the Pacific, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. Her poems appear in three anthologies: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down (Scarlet Tanager Press, 2012); The Widows’ Handbook (Kent State U. Press 2014); and in River of Earth and Sky (Blue Light Press, 2015). And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown, is available on Amazon.
Ron Cabral entered teaching in the San Francisco Unified School District in1965 and became a Middle School principal in 1992. He retired in 2002. He and Judy Bebelaar met at Opportunity High, where they came to know the teenagers of Peoples Temple. His book about his friendship with rock star Joe McDonald, Country Joe and Me, was published in 2003 by AuthorHouse and is available on Amazon