30 years later, former Peoples Temple followers in Ukiah still trying to forget
A carved-wood shepherd with a lamb draped over its neck and a towering white cross have replaced the guards that once kept unwanted visitors out and cult members in at Jim Jones' Peoples Temple near Ukiah.
Thirty years after Jones and more than 900 of his followers perished in a horrific mass suicide and murder in Guyana, there are no signs of the cult's tenure in the building that now houses an Assembly of God church.
"It looks like a respectable place that honors people and honors community," said Kim Harvey, pastor of the church.
But memories of one of the most shocking episodes in U.S. history remain vivid in the minds of former followers of the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of their friends and family members on Nov. 18, 1978.
"I keep having recurring dreams" about being trapped in the temple, said Ukiah resident Alan Swanson, 63.
Swanson moved from Seattle to Redwood Valley in 1973 to join Jones' church after attending one of the fiery, self-ordained minister's "miracle healings."
He was lured by Jones' promise of a Utopian community that practiced tolerance and good deeds.
Redwood Valley, about eight miles north of Ukiah in rural Mendocino County, became the epicenter for Jones' cult when he built his church shortly after moving from Indiana in 1965.
Donated land and money from followers, who were required to hand over their worldly possessions, allowed Jones to acquire several houses for communal living near the church. He also ran care homes for the elderly, disabled and troubled teens.
But Swanson became disillusioned with Jones' increasingly authoritarian rule by 1977.
He decided to leave after a friend in the church confided that Jones had put a gun to her head and told her there was a bullet in it for her if she ever left.
Swanson defected a year before Jones ordered his flock -- some say hostages -- in Jonestown to drink poison punch.
Jerry Parks, 75, who had followed Jones to California and then to Guyana, could not escape the horror.
He and his family were on the verge of escaping Jonestown when armed men opened fire on them at the Port Kaituma tarmac as they boarded two aircraft that had brought Congressman Leo Ryan and his fact-finding group to Guyana.
"My wife was sitting in the doorway (of the airplane). They shot the top of her head off," said Parks, who is now retired from a job at Safeway and living in Ukiah.
Four others, including Ryan, who was investigating the cult on behalf of concerned family members back home, also died in the attack. Ten others were wounded.
After temple gunmen attacked Ryan's party, Jones told his flock that suicide was their only way out.
Some willingly drank the cyanide-laced punch and fed it to young children and infants. Others were forced to drink it at gunpoint.
Parks has tried to put the traumatic images out of his mind, but the memories are stubborn.
"I'm thinking about it all the time," he said.
Sometimes he dreams that he's back in Jonestown.
"I was so happy it was just a dream when I woke up," he said.
Parks said he feels guilty and stupid for believing in Jones and for taking his family to Guyana.