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A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story Hardcover – September, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Anyone fascinated or horrified by the story of the Branch Davidian sect and the storming of their Waco, Texas, compound by law enforcement authorities in April 1993 will want to read David Thibodeau's compelling first-person account. Thibodeau, one of only nine Branch Davidian survivors of the attack (in which 74 people--including several children--were killed), begins by telling readers what brought him to Waco. We meet David Koresh as Thibodeau first met him: a fellow rock musician, an abused child from a troubled family who didn't finish high school and was fond of guns but loved to talk about the Bible. The memoir offers what appears to be an honest portrayal of life among the Branch Davidians, including the sham marriages in which men were expected to be celibate while Koresh had sex with most of the women--and girls as young as 12 years old. Thibodeau strongly denies other charges of child abuse within the community; children were punished and spanked, he says, but not beaten.

The second half of the book details the Branch Davidians' dealings with federal agents. In light of subsequent government admissions, including a partial recantation in 1999 of previous denials that the tear gas used in the assault could have been incendiary, Thibodeau's detailed account of the storming of the compound and the fire that followed is chilling. Why did people follow Koresh? As Thibodeau remembers an early conversation with one of his followers, previously a theology student in England, "He has the answers to my questions." But A Place Called Waco ends with more questions than answers. --Linda Killian

From Library Journal

If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) badly mishandled the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992, its handling of the Waco incident the next year was even worse. Thibodeau, one of the nine survivors of the siege at Waco, met David Koresh by chance at a Los Angeles music store and was invited to join his followers at Mount Carmel in Waco, TX. Thibodeau gives the reader an inside look at life at Mount Carmel, revealing, for instance, that Koresh had sex with most of the women there, including children as young as 14. When the ATF learned that weapons were stockpiled at Mount Carmel and that it was only a matter of time before Koresh would use them against the government, it joined the FBI in an attack that left 74 people dead. This book gives a rare glimpse of life at Mount Carmel and an account of how that attack contrasts with the "official" government version. With the renewed interest in this siege, this book is recommended for public libraries.AMichael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Publisher; 1 edition (September 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891620428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891620423
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on August 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most everyone knows about the federal government's disastrous debacle at Waco, Texas back in 1993. We have watched the testimonies, the congressional investigations, and the flames engulfing the building that housed the Branch Davidian religious sect. Some of us have even read books on the event, and many have been written. This book, written by survivor David Thibodeau, is one of the best yet.

Thibodeau was right there, in the middle of the standoff with ATF and FBI agents, so his perspective is unique from others who have written about the event from the outside. Starting with the time when he first met David Koresh while playing in various bands in Los Angeles, Thibodeau talks about his interest in the Branch Davidians and explains what got him involved in the group; why he became interested in religion after never having much interest or instruction during his youth; why he decided to follow Koresh and his teachings; why he decided to stay at Mt. Carmel during the siege; how he handled the media and press following his escape from the fire; and his post- Mt. Carmel life, touring the country as an informational speaker.

Thibodeau has a lot of anger to share in this book, not toward Koresh or the other members of the religious group, but toward the press and the U.S. government. He fully admits that Koresh wasn't perfect and that certain actions taken by Koresh (like sleeping with young girls) wasn't right and should have landed him in jail. But above all, he is most scornful of the media and the U.S. government. The members of the media acted like lap dogs during the siege, reporting on anything told to them by the ATF and FBI as if it were absolute truth.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tori Eshleman on April 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My hat goes off to David Thibodeau for his riveting rendition of the tragedy at Waco. Thidbodeau has a unique perspective as a member of the religious community that came under seige and also one of the few not imprisoned in the aftermath.
Amazingly, Thibodeau does not present an "all or nothing" approach to the the scenario. He deserves high commendation and praise for his willingness to look at himself, his former leader, his friends and family within the group as well as the government officials involved with the tragedy from a critical perspective. He lets no one off (least of all himself) with a simple cursory glance and attempts to help the reader understand the tragedy from a fresh perspective.
This was a truly enlightening book and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than a casual interest in religious freedom or the events that occured at Mt. Carmel in 1993. Congratulations Mr. Thibodeau, in spite of the agony you have endured, you have succeeded in applying a vivid human face and a balanced view to a very complex and difficult situation.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven Fantina on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book, by one of the few Waco survivors, paints a very disturbing portrait both of life within the doomed compound and more shockingly of the actions of the U.S. government. To justify its egregious use of force, the government leveled many outlandish charges at David Koresh and his followers. Thibodeau convincingly refutes most of them. However, the sect's leader did subject his followers to some truly eldritch practices, and credible allegations suggest he was guilty of engaging in sexual relations with underage girls. He should have been arrested for this illegal act, and the local authorities should also have prosecuted any adults who were aware of such a heinous action and remained silent. Neither the FBI, the ATF nor the federal government in any capacity typically get involved in statutory rape cases. Unfortunately for all the victims of this pogrom, the incident happened right after the appointment of attorney general Janet Reno who seemed desperate to show off her macho power.
One of the government's tiresome claims was that the attack was necessary to prevent child abuse. The actions taken belie this fallacious defense. To force the final confrontation, Reno's raiders sprayed the complex with a potent form of tear gas recently rejected by the U.S. Army as inhumane. This was accompanied by sniper fire, a tank assault and the suspiciously started conflagration. Willingly murdering several little children in an unprovoked dragoon does seem to reduce Clinton and Reno's repeated vocal concerns for the children to shameless hypocrisy. The Constitution does not allow for this type of treatment of those who fall out of favor with our leaders, even when the victims are suspected-or convicted felons.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Williams on November 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am always interested in why people do the things they do, and this book answers the question of why someone like David Thibodeau became part of the Mount Carmel community. I think the author tries very hard to be unbiased. I didn't understand everything Koresh taught, but I think it's important to read about all sides of the Waco story. I think the author accomplishes his stated purpose of trying to make the world understand that this was not about a bunch of wackos, but about real people with real spiritual needs under the leadership of a flawed man.
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