(NewsNation) — Ed Norwood was a member of Jim Jones’ church when he was a child. He was 8 years old when 27 of his family members were massacred by Jones in the Jonestown Guyana tragedy.
On November 18, 1978, more than 900 members of the cult, called the People’s Temple, died in a mass murder-suicide. Many of them were forced, at gunpoint, to drink a poison punch.
Prior to 9/11, Jonestown was the largest incident of intentional civilian death in American history. And the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” came to describe anyone who follows a leader with cult loyalty.
Norwood is now a pastor and the author of “Be A Giant Killer: Overcoming Your Everyday Goliaths,” in which he shares the lessons he’s learned over time.
Norwood joined NewsNation’s “Banfield” on Tuesday to talk about what he experienced in the cult and if it’s possible for another Jonestown to occur.
“Jones annihilated the dreams of people who were builders of the next generation,” Norwood said. “Over 44 years ago, purpose, legacy, dreams and doctors died in the jungle. And kids were innocent casualties of Jim Jones, by decisions of their parents.”
Norwood said that Jones deceived these parents who simply wanted to escape systemic racism and the inequality of poverty.
“Jones told them they can only be free from racial disparity by leaving America. So they run to Jonestown, Guyana to live in paradise, and soon find out that it’s hell on earth,” Norwood said.
What happened to Jonestown happens in America every single day, according to Norwood.
“We run from problems, we fail, we make mistakes, we stay in comfort zones, we ignore red flags or power in shame and guilt.
“We fight bouts of depression. We stay in unhealthy, abusive, familiar and destructive relationships out of fear. And we prematurely take our dreams to the grave. And I’ll just end with this: 900 people died 44 years ago, because of fear. Fear they weren’t good enough. Fear that Jim was the best that they could do. Fear that they were in too deep, and he would kill them if they left.
“I believe that if people will watch themselves, they can ensure they don’t transmit the traumas and the fears that they’ve experienced to the next generation. That’s why I wrote the book.”