‘Waco’: The Children Describe Life With David Koresh Knowing They Would ‘Die for Him’
The miniseries, Waco, — about David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) and his Branch Davidians — moved to Netflix on April 16, 2020, although it originally premiered on Paramount Network Jan. 24, 2018. The miniseries is gaining popularity on Netflix, with many viewers concerned about the children at Waco and their life at Mount Carmel.
What is the miniseries ‘Waco’ about on Netflix?
Waco is a dramatization of the 51-day standoff that occurred in 1993 in Waco, Texas. The six-episode miniseries begins with background information on the Branch Davidians — a religious group that many call a cult — led by Koresh. The Davidians lived together at their Mount Carmel Center, learning scripture through long Bible studies conducted by Koresh.
When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives discovers that a shipment of guns is heading to the center, they attempt to serve a warrant with full tactical gear and guns ready. A journalist accidentally tips off the mailman to the raid so that the Davidians can prepare.
A 51-day standoff ensues after the raid fails with four dead ATF agents and six dead Branch Davidians. Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon) is brought in as the head negotiator for the FBI.
The FBI negotiator talks Koresh into releasing 21 children in exchange for milk for the babies still inside. They say goodbye to their parents and leave the center. The standoff finally ends when the FBI sends tear gas into the building on day 51. The Branch Davidians believe the tear gas started the fire, while the FBI believe the Davidians did it. The remaining 76 people who did not get out of the fire, died, including 25 children trapped inside.
What was life like for the children with David Koresh at ‘Waco’?
The children remember being afraid of anyone outside the community. They listened to Bible study sessions led by Koresh, which could be as long as 12 hours. He often spoke about a violent confrontation with the government. They knew this battle would end in death.
“We are soldiers in the army,” the kids were taught to chant. “We’ve got to fight. Someday we have to die. We have to hold up the blood-stained banner. We have to hold it up until we die.”
When the children were in trouble, they were beaten with a wood paddle known as “the helper.” The men in the compound were ordered by Koresh to be celibate. Then the leader took their wives and young girls to be his brides. Kiri Jewell, who was 10 at the time, spoke to ABC News about what it was like to be Koresh’s youngest bride.
“I had been trained from a very early age that this was a good thing,” she said about being molested by Koresh at the age of 10.
The children at ‘Waco’ grew up knowing they were going to die young
When the 21 children said goodbye to their parents during the siege, they knew they would see their parents again in Heaven.
“He never was very specific, but at some point, we were going to have to die for him,” Jewell said. “I knew we weren’t going to be around for very long. I didn’t expect to live past 12.”
When the kids arrived at the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas, they drew pictures of the compound engulfed in flames, with a stairway leading up to the sky. When asked what her drawing was about, Jaunessa said, “You’ll find out.”
One or both of the children’s parents died in the fire that ended the 51-day standoff. The Texas Department of Human Services attempted to find each child’s closest relatives for them to live with.