‘Waco’: What Happened to the Children David Koresh Released Before the Fire?

The miniseries, Waco, — about David Thibodeau and David Koresh — 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 wondering what happened to the survivors after the siege.

Joann Vaega, one of the surviving children from the 'Waco' siege
Joann Vaega, one of the surviving children from the ‘Waco’ siege | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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 some background information on the Branch Davidians — a religious group that many call a cult — led by David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch). The Davidians live together at their Mount Carmel Center in Waco, learning scripture through Bible studies conducted by Koresh. 

In the early episodes, viewers also get some background about an 11-day siege on Ruby Ridge. Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon), head of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit, helped to diffuse the situation after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) killed several of the people in the house at Ruby Ridge. 

Noesner is also the head negotiator for the FBI after the ATF attempts to serve a warrant with full tactical gear — guns blazing. After the death of four ATF agents and six of the Branch Davidians, the 51-day standoff ensued. 

RELATED: David Thibodeau reports ‘Waco’ is ‘Not Historically Accurate’

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 happened to the children who survived the ‘Waco’ siege?

In exchange for milk, Koresh let 21 children leave the Mount Carmel Compound during the 51-day siege. Those survivors were sent to the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas. Once there, the Texas Department of Human Services began attempting to find each child’s closest relatives. 

Joann Vaega, who was 6-years-old at the time, was sent back to her hometown in Kailua, Hawaii, to live with her half-sister, Ursula Gehrmann. Both of Vaega’s parents, Margarida and Neil Vaega, died in the fire on April 19, 1993.

RELATED: ‘Waco’: David Thibodeau Still Does Not Believe David Koresh Was a Con Man

The 34-year-old defied predictions about her future from therapists who said she might become a “mass murderer,” because of the tragedy she went through. Vaega is now a training and development director at a restaurant, a wife, and a mother of two children. 

All of the children lost one or both parents in the fire, according to ABC News.

‘Waco’: What was life like for the children of the Branch Davidians

The children grew up expecting they were going to die young. The organization was very strict and beat the kids with a wooden paddle when they were in trouble.  

“We are soldiers in the army,” the children remember the chant they were taught. “We’ve got to fight. Some day we have to die. We have to hold up the blood-stained banner. We have to hold it up until we die.”

When they left the compound, they knew to say goodbye to their parents meant they would see them in Heaven. The children explained that they were taught this was the battle that will end in flames, with a stairway to Heaven. 

According to Psychiatrist Bruce Perry, after leaving the center, it took three weeks to get the children’s heart rates back to normal. A few of the surviving children who speak about their experiences now are married with families of their own. They forgive their parents but continue to have anger toward the government for everything that happened during the siege.