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Interview: Waco Survivor David Thibodeau on the Survivor's Perspective

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This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Waco survivor and humanitarian, David Thibodeau! We discussed all things Waco, Black Lives Matter and equality. David’s story and his humanitarian work are very inspiring, and I hope you enjoy our interview as much as I enjoyed it!  Listen to the full interview.

• What is PTSD?

1. Hi David! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Why don’t you introduce yourself for those who may not know you.

Hi, my name is David Thibodeau. I guess that’s a good place to start. They just recently released a six-part series on Netflix that was originally released a few years ago, actually under the Paramount Network and it’s entitled Waco.

It’s a series about the Waco siege in 1993 at Mount Carmel that resulted in a fire and numerous deaths. The series is from a survivor’s perspective (my perspective) and from the perspective of one of the FBI negotiators who was there in 1993.

The series revolves around a guy named David Koresh and some of his followers — the people who were with him at the time that the building burned after the 51-day siege. I’m one of the survivors of the siege, and I was in the building for the entire 51 days. I’m one of the nine fire survivors that came out on April 19th, 1993. So I’m a witness to every single thing that happened from inside of the building.

2. Wow, I just can’t imagine what you had to go through during those 51 days, and that only nine survivors came out. Are you still in contact with the other survivors?

Sure. I’m still in contact with many of them, but not all of them. Some of them have moved out of the country, and people are scattered pretty much throughout the world. Also, I want to add that I there were more than nine people that survived the siege.

There were 23 of us that came out during the 51 days, including some older women and quite a few of the children. It just wasn’t until the fire when there were only nine of us that came out. So. I think altogether 35 or 36 people survived.

3. Oh OK, that makes sense. With everything that you have been through, what are your feelings about the George Floyd protests, police brutality and the movements that have erupted in recent years, such as the Me Too movement?

Well, I’ve been following Black Lives Matter, honestly, before Black Lives Matter. To me, the destruction of indigenous peoples throughout the world by the forces that be is despicable. I’ve followed events that have happened in the course of the history of the world all the way to America and us taking over this country and basically destroying the American Indians and destroying their way of life for our own greed. My dad is a history teacher, so I’m no slouch when it comes to history. History has always been a thing for me and understanding it is paramount. I’ve always related more to the underdog and I have a deep relation with the American Indian movement and the American Indians in general. I always have.

I think being a part of Waco is something that was a massacre as well. As far as I was concerned, it was a massacre for religious beliefs more than anything else. There are several different avenues of thought that I have on that one, if we’re going to get deeper into Waco, but you know, my story and the story of the survivors is the one that has not been told because it has not been allowed to be told the FBI. Basically, you know the old saying the Victors always rewrite the history. Or, as I should say, write the history.

The protests now with George Floyd, and the George Floyd case as a whole is probably one of the only cases in modern history where that’s not happening. I think that technology has helped to document the truth and allowed people to fight the system, which is amazing.

A lot of things have changed in recent years for the better. Women’s rights are becoming more prevalent and women are having the bravery to speak up, especially if they’re being abused. A lot of women have been scared for years and years and years to say anything because they knew how they were going to be treated. And just to have that kind of bravery. It’s such an inspiration to see how this generation has led. I’m very happy about it, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of issues that take place right now. I’m worried that this could end in more violence because people are mad enough and want our society to change, but I am hopeful that positive change will come of it.

4. What are your thoughts on how protesters have been treated by law enforcement throughout the George Floyd case?

This is a heavy one as well. People are looking the cops directly in the eye, standing on the front lines with no weapons looking at them — a bunch of armed people with weapons, shields and batons — and the people are screaming in their faces. That doesn’t happen often. That’s something that’s been building for a long, long time. So, we’re going to have to see how the American authorities handle all of this. I have to say that I’m pretty nervous about that.

5. Do you see this time as a time of deep trouble in our country?

Well, scripturally, every prophet talks about the time of trouble that’ll come at the end of the days, right before the kingdom of God is to be set up or they talk about this time of trouble being worse than any other time of trouble since the beginning of time. However, I don’t often get into scripture with people due to the sensitive nature of it. I talk, you know, like a real person, because I am a real person. The Bible at one time in my life was paramount. I spent a lot of time studying it, but I live in the real world.

But the problem with people asking if we are in a time of trouble is that if there was ever a time of trouble, it probably should have been World War II or, or if you want to think about it from a scriptural standpoint, it was probably during the time when the Romans went into Jerusalem and ransacked it and took it over. I’m pretty sure all the Jews at that period of time thought that their Messiah was going to come and save them.

Every generation thinks that they’re living in the end days, so I don’t like to be one of those people that says this is it, because nobody truly knows. Scripture says that no man knows. So, I just think it’s very interesting. I hope that it doesn’t happen now, but I know there’s definitely some things going to change in this country. There’s just no doubt about it. Something has to change because people are just so fed up, as they should be!

6. Have these current events been bringing up your memories of the Waco siege?

Yes, absolutely, because at Mount Carmel, we were all people of light. You know, a third of the people in Mount Carmel were black and most people don’t even know that. They wanted to be teachers of the scripture and they met David and they learned more from him in one night than they had in their many years of studying at their seminary schools. They ended up leaving their schools to come study with David.

So, you know, I heard that story over and over and over again. But the point is, a third of the people that died at Mount Carmel were black. Where was the ACLU then? Where was anyone to be found to help us?

You know, I was raised with National Public Radio, PBS, and I thought the intellectual sows, as I like to call them, would want to know the truth about the Waco siege when it happened. But nobody wanted to hear the truth. The media just talked about how we were a bunch of religious nuts with guns, which was absolutely crushing. That was the attitude from the intellectual side that blew my mind. The fact that when I came out, I wanted to talk about my experience, and people who I admired wouldn’t hear it.

It’s shameful is what it is. People accepted what the media told them about us and moved on. They didn’t bother to talk about the infrared video at the back of the building at Mount Carmel where there were shooters, literally fully automatic weapon fire, right next to the tank shooting into the back of the building as people were trying to escape. They didn’t talk about any of that.

7. I know that you have said that many of the documentaries out there on Waco don’t represent the truth as you know it.  What documentaries on Waco do you recommend for people who want to learn more?

There are so many documentaries out there that I’ve seen over the years, but there’s really only two decent ones. The first one is Waco: The Rules of Engagement, and the follow up, Waco: A New Revelation. Those two are phenomenal.

(You can purchase both documentaries on David’s website)

8. How did you go about publishing your book back in the 1990s?  Was it self-published?

No, actually, in Los Angeles I found a literary agent, but my book was turned down by 23 different publishers before it was finally accepted. At the time, only a few people were even interested in the book or my story, and I eventually slowed down with my work of getting the truth about Waco out because I felt like no one cared. But I didn’t expect any of this to happen with the series and how people are talking about Waco again! It baffles me, but I am glad people are finally listening.

9. Have you struggled with your mental health since the Waco siege?

I taught, I gave lectures and talks all over the country for a while after Waco, but again, it was only the radical right elements that wanted to even hear what I had to say. So even that was frustrating. But the point came where I saw the infrared video for the first time when they were filming The Rules of Engagement. 

I gotta tell you, it affected me in such a deep way. They gave me a copy of it to show people, and I was giving talks at this point that was in front of an audience 400 or 500 people. And I was showing the infrared for the first time. And I was showing where the fully automatic weapon fire was. I just lost it in front of the audience, and I knew that I was not in control of my anger. At that point, I had always been controlled in front of an audience. And, so, when that had happened, I said, OK, I can’t talk about this publicly anymore. Something is happening to me, and I don’t know what it is. And you know, that had to do with the anger.

A lot of that was PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but this was before anyone knew what PTSD was. This was back in the 90s, early 90s. I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I was a very angry individual, and I experienced periods of what I call a darkness but what others might call depression. But my anger has been the biggest challenge.

10. Where can people go to learn more about Waco, your book and the documentaries you mentioned?

I have a website called that includes various FBI transcripts between David Karesh and the FBI during the siege. I also sell my book and the documentaries I recommend, as well as the Waco series, and I autograph everything. The website is the best destination if you want to learn more about the truth of what happened at Waco.

(To learn more about Waco and purchase a signed copy of David’s book, visit:

Image via David Thibodeau’s Facebook page

Originally published: July 17, 2020
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