Nine hundred eighteen Americans did not just one day decide to commit suicide en mass. There was considerable history and manipulation behind the scenes--and when the cult was still in California, the teenagers went to a high school in the nearby town. This book is a somber memorial of the children who were lost, written by one of their teachers.
About the Author
Judy Bebelaar taught English and creative writing for 37 years in public high schools in San Francisco, California. She has received national recognition for her success in helping her students find meaning in writing about their lives. Judy co-hosts a reading series in Berkeley, where she lives, for the Bay Area Writing Project. Her award-winning poetry has been published in dozens of literary magazines; a chapbook, Walking Across the Pacific (Finishing Line Press, 2014); and in three anthologies: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down (Scarlet Tanager Books, 2012), The Widows’ Handbook (Kent State University Press, 2014) and River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century (Blue Light Press, 2016).
Ron Cabral, a native of San Francisco, entered teaching in the San Francisco Unified School District in 1965 and became a Middle School principal in 1992. He served 35 years in that capacity, finally retiring in 2002. Ron met Judy Bebelaar, a fellow teacher, in 1969 at Opportunity
1, where he taught Urban Problems, Music Appreciation, Journalism, Drugs and Society, and Radio Production. He also managed and coached the school baseball team. He later transferred to Wilson High School in 1978. Ron is married with three grown children and five grandsons. He lives in Contra Costa County.
And Then They Were Gone is a mind-blowing and heart-opening account of the utopian dreamers who died at Jonestown, Guyana, in November, 1978. The story honors in particular the adolescents whom the authors had known and taught as students full of promise, children who appeared, en masse, in their classes at Opportunity High School in San Francisco, a year or two before the bizarre events that are variously referred to as “the Jonestown massacre” or, simply, “Jonestown.”
—Catharine Lucas, Professor Emeritus, San Francisco State University
A moving portrait of the high school students who lost their lives in Jonestown. Through documentation, personal memory, and in many cases, the teenagers’ own poetry, Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral show us the real young people behind the grim headlines.
—Autumn Stephens, author of the Wild Women book series
The book ends with a passing moment during which two of the survivors — sons of Jim Jones himself — return to their high school, the place where their innocence once thrived, to stop in and see an old teacher. In this moment the book ultimately nails what it set out to do: to show the humanity of the people of Peoples Temple, and to do so from the students’ and teachers’ perspectives.
—Craig Foreman, educator, “One Teacher to Another: A Review of And Then They Were Gone,” The Jonestown Report, 2018
...Thankfully Bebelaar and Cabral do not put Jones as the center of their narrative, but rather as a shadow of what is to come. Instead they are smart and focus on the teenagers themselves: Mondo Griffith, a sixteen year old who shared his poetry the first day of class. Dorothy Buckley, who also took Bebelaar’s creative writing class, and was featured on the school’s radio show where she played songs from “He’s Able”; and Wesley Breidenbach, who was well liked by his teachers for his intelligence and his ability to draw others into class conversations. And then there’s Stephan [Jones] who has a world weariness that didn’t seem right on a seventeen-year-old boy. Little did they know the weight Stephan was carrying, dealing with family and church pressures...
—Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons, prize-winning author, “That Championship Season Before the World Turned Gray,” The Jonestown Report, 2018
....Through the chapters about their time at the school, we get an interesting glimpse of teenage life outside the Temple, according to their teachers, although the Temple youngsters mostly kept to themselves and were more guarded about their personal lives than the other pupils. Through the poetry they wrote in Bebelaar’s creative writing class, we learn about their dreams, hopes and ideals.
The book follows the Temple children as they migrate from Opportunity II to Guyana. We hear about their daily lives in Jonestown as well as the general development, or rather deterioration, of the Peoples Temple organization and Jim Jones’ corresponding decline. This part of the book brings interesting new details and personal perspectives to situations many will have heard of before, through interviews with Stephan Jones, among others....
—Rikke Wettendorff, writer and co-editor, The Jonestown Report, “From High School to Jonestown,” The Jonestown Report, 2018
And Then They Were Gone provides fresh information about the teen members of Peoples Temple, filling a vast gap in our overall understanding of Jim Jones and his (mostly) doomed followers. I’m grateful to the authors for these insights. —Jeff Guinn, author of The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
A heart-breaking tribute to a group of San Francisco teens who were sent to Jonestown, as recounted by two of their former high school teachers. This book humanizes such a horrific tragedy by inviting readers to become well acquainted with these teenagers—so many of whom were killed in the mass murder-suicide. Before they were victims of a crazed religious leader, they were just kids—with the hopes and dreams common to children everywhere. By reading about them, we honor their memories.
—Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown
Seen through the eyes of two of their high school teachers, this book is a work of love and fond memories, a testament to how youth and innocence can be hijacked. The dead cannot speak, yet Bebelaar and Cabral have allowed us to hear their voices once more.
—Deborah Layton, author of Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple