GREENSBURG — Deborah Layton has been to the abyss; has stood on the precipice of oblivion, staring down into infinite blackness, facing the darkest depths of the human condition.
In 1978, thousands of miles from here, she was nearly pulled into that darkness along with almost 1,000 other souls who met their end in a jungle at the end of nowhere. Her own rebellious nature, though; her own will to survive and to tell her story lifted Layton back from the edge.
But she was driven by more than mere survival instinct. Someone had to tell the story; someone had make the public aware of what had happened in the jungles of South America; someone had to stitch together the fragments of broken, otherwise discarded lives and make something whole and meaningful of them; someone had to do something to prevent Jonestown, Guyana from ever happening again.
Layton, who’s spent nearly four decades telling her story, will bring her harrowing, tragic tale to the Greensburg/Decatur County Public Library starting at 7 p.m., Monday. The following day, she’ll also speak to students at the 2014 Greensburg Community High School Chautauqua.
Layton’s 1998 autobiography, “Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple,” was re-released earlier this year as an audiobook, pushing her story and the Jonestown tragedy back into the public conscious.
On Thursday evening, Layton spoke with the Daily News regarding her upcoming Greensburg appearances and why she believes it’s important to tell her story.
“Poison,” Layton said, is required reading at several universities and colleges around the country. She’s glad for that, because she believes it important for young people, especially, to be exposed to the Jonestown story and to think about how and why it happened.
“I wrote about my life to help people understand this could happen to anybody,” she said. “Anybody can find themselves trapped. It doesn’t have to be a cult, either. It might be a bad marriage or other relationship where you don’t know how to extricate yourself without harming yourself or someone you love.”