April 17, 2003: The children of Waco

ABC's "Primetime" speaks to the children that survived the Branch Davidians' Waco compound fire that took place in 1993.
36:07 | 12/28/17

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Transcript for April 17, 2003: The children of Waco
It was ten years ago this week that we watched the Branch Davidians Waco compound go up in flames. The tragic result of a 51 day standoff between the FBI. And the religious cult that was armed to the teeth. 21 of the children survived that fire they had been sent out during the 51 days of negotiations. Between David Koresh and federal authorities. As the ten year anniversary was approaching we wondered what happened to the children each lost a parent or parents in the fire however they coped with that. You are about to meet seven Waco survivors. Witness the children of Waco. This standoff David is over. Time is the leading them. Your people now and now. The voice you are hearing FBI negotiator Byron sage. Pleading with a cult leader David Koresh. To send his followers and their children to safety. Don't lose control of his name. Structure or wait for version out there as soon as fox. 25 children and their parents did not come out. Men died in the fire at Waco. But few recall that 21 children did survive. Koresh released them in the first week of what would be of this. The children released were mostly under the age of ten. You have seen this footage again and again. But you haven't seen this. Footage of the children taken just days before their parents would die in the inferno. Holding hands they danced in a circle singing not nursery rhymes but a song of death about a battle that would end the world twisted lyrics. Koresh. Yeah game. And this is David Koresh the self appointed messiah of their parents were shipped. The kids were taught his word was law. He never was very specific about it. At some point you're gonna have to dive for hand and then they knew we were going to be around for very long and I didn't expect to live past twelve. Geri Jewell is 22 now her mother died in the fire and she is one of the seven survivors and we brought together for the first time in ten years. JoAnne vegan only seven when she lost both her parents. Three Wendell children both their parents died as well. Brad Boris whose mother died in the fire. As did sky locomotives father. And his father was David correction. All seven of these children have lived the last ten years with the realization that their parents chose Koresh. Over them to died in a fire. Leaving them to face the world alone. I mean I was her only child. And she chose this day. She believed to have. There was nothing that I could have said to her that would've changed her mind. The children of the cult still remember her precious Bible studies involve risks. Some of ruling twelve hours long. Preparing his followers for what he predicted would be a final. Violent confrontation with the government the levee no excuses. And okay. Knowing that. We are going to be packed pay. Back people. So you had that sense the death would be the end my mom say to me are you willing to die you know for him in what would you say that. Yeah. The confrontation began. On the morning of February 28 1993. I just remembered it was a normal morning that things than usual at all. And then the window that was above the babies had just shattered. I mean though that and it got the wind and those moments UK and black. And yeah. Acting on a tip and already suspicious of the strange compound the seventy agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms arrived with a warrant. To search for illegal weapons and explosives boom and to arrest Koresh for stockpiling. Al Sadr to end. And then we'll have fun. It quickly turned into the deadly shoot out that everyone remembers. That scene that shoot out through the eyes of the children. We'll work inside from the beginning. Joseph in Vegas she was seven. My mom and then determine the flag. And she goes on top of me and then I don't remember anything after that. What did you think was happening. As about where being attacked. It was madness just people running around all over the place. You know saying this person's been shot. This. Chaos. Join us a Wendell the oldest of four children was just eight. She says she can still see her mother herding them into a hallway. And that her mom and former police officer rushed back to the bedroom window to fire at the ATF. What is her reaction going to be other than to. Protect us and the best way she knows how her for a young children are being attacked the baby's asleep in the crib. Five months old. And glass is spot on because the when does being shot out. Two hours into the shooting Koresh gave permission for the ATF to enter the compound. And evacuate its casualties for agents and six Koresh followers. Were dead. Among investors mull. She was lying on the bed and Ilyce sheet her body had been covered with a blank inside and actually see her. That I knows her mound just a few feet from where you were an. What followed. Those 51 days of negotiations. Are rationed his followers inside a government agents outside. In the whole world Washington. FBI negotiators used an open line to try to convince Koresh to let the children go it would. Literally kids. Can we get that children hopefully they were the only innocence of her and her kids were primary. Focus our term priority to get them out of harm's way. But team of FBI negotiators led by Byron sage bargained with correction the deal. They give him time on the radio for every two minutes they gave him to deliver his sermons he had to give up two kids. So listen this is wide 21 children survive and. Yeah. Children aren't you murals and gave him our okay Lou. Love you yeah. It was a correction and not their parents who decided which children would come out. He didn't send out any of his biological children and you have to remember. All of the children were fearful of the world outside the compound the bad guys live there of the kids who were chosen to leave didn't wanna go. It wasn't his kids out relating. And I don't want it to be staying I didn't want to be one of the kids that was leaving her. Today in the walking with a flash drive the big moment. And looks like the child looks like a child in the back of that van. Eight year old Jenna so Wendell and her little sister amber others were among the first to leave. That's John essay in the front seat. There was dust my scary leaning IAA had no idea where we are going and why do you relieving. As far as I knew the baggy eyes are still out there and once that shot and killed another. And her father let her go. And remained in the countdown. I remember that he taught me to be strong and take care of these guys. They had seen Mason. And you talk that he loved me. Again and hit Sudanese. She says he mentioned as Koresh had taught them that he would sear in heaven. After the Armageddon that was coming. We did understand at that point a twisted. The parents' minds and become over the years living in the division. Doctor Bruce Perry is a psychiatrist the children released were taken to the Methodist home in Waco this regard compound. Where he volunteered to treatment he thought their parents would be coming out of the compound any day. He was wrong for six weeks with their parents barricaded inside he and his staff tried to reach the kids. What did you hear during fashion. Yeah and they were unlike any children he had ever seen before. All 21 children released in the days after the bloody shoot out. Were taken to the Methodist home in Waco. No one knew that they would be here for six more weeks while their parents stayed barricaded in the compound with David Koresh. Outwardly they looked like normal kids they're angry. But it takes psychiatrist Bruce Perry and his team of psychologists and social workers three weeks just to get their heart rates down to normal. Every single one of these children that was in her care had seen blood had seen someone get shocked and probably half of them sought that body so. They witnessed violence. Their whole world was completely shattered. They were in the care of people whom they didn't trust. Doctor Perry volunteered to work with the children of the cult. And soon discovered that they feared Koresh as much as they feared outsiders. Caress it actually threatened its children. She'd told them. That if they left the way. That they would move from the good guy catch the bad guy camp and when he came back into. They had been brainwashed to believe that there are only two kinds of people good and evil. The good guys inside the cult and everyone else was bad. Here is Landon Wendell only three years old wearing a toy rifle on the therapist tapes talking about the end of. The world the bad guys. Men and get better as very act and don't hold our own and there in the bathroom. And these never before seen tapes of the children's play therapy. Joseph Perry's team slowly being let into their world. Yeah. XU hall I don't like she needn't. They might know the caliber of a machine gun bullet. What kind of edgy issues. On his turf but they didn't know simple things like the State Capitol Texas. The children described a world where Koresh controlled everything and kept them cut off from the world outside the only friends you had were the friends. Who came from there and yet. Were you allowed to socialize a little people. Now. Koresh who was wounded in the shootout released this videotape from the besieged compound. This is my. On my favorite sons here. The war on my left to sky. To his disciples Koresh was god and his son sky prince of the kingdom. Some of the kids who came out talked about the helper. Nor tell us resistant Ndukwe and I don't that they used to spank us. Beat me is more like it sky's mother Dayna oh Comodo is still haunted by the punishment that correction ordered her to inflict. On their infant son. If there was one thing I could take that. A link take back this thing king's. I drew blood that was luck. I felt like the most evil person who work to be he might be if this thing. But this was what god wanted and needed for me this is God's child. And this is how I was told to do this. He did things strongly be punished for them that can thank you. Still rests in your opinion be hit for it. And Lisa picks this like. Even after ten years the memory of the beatings is painful. Joseph in Vegas is comforted by her half sister Ursula. Who never joined the group their mom had given up everything to correction eyes hair hands saying. And Dana locomotive did the same she was the sixth the correction is twenty wives he insisted that god had ordered the men in his group to be some of it. While he slept with their wives and daughters. Some as young as twelve. How being very young girls as part of his wives. Was part of what he caught. That was the secret. It bothered me yes but at the time it was just well he's just getting them ready. But at the same time tune. They look queen. And being chosen as the wife was agreed honored there Dana talked about why she was willing to spend five years with correction. It wasn't so much his physical body for me it was a spiritual thing it would is he had this message from god. And I could be a part of fat it's. His message was simple it was an Armageddon cult. Dying for courage was their ticket to heaven he would lead his followers onto eternal glory he always intended for them to die. Dana escape the compound and David Koresh to save her son's sky and scooter. I knew. If I stayed weak guy. To state means death. Kiri Jewell is mother tried to convince sure it is day. Her mom had been in the cult for nine years and was corrections seventh wife. There came a time when. I eight. It was no longer the most important thing in her life she believed him a 100%. And I can't explain. Why. Juries father David divorced her mother before she joined the cult. He became alarmed at what he was hearing and when ten year old Kiri came to visit him he refused to let her return to Waco. One legal custody of his daughter and that probably saved her life. Before the age of ten. She had been taught. To commit suicide by putting a pistol in her mouth didn't want to stick they got near temple occasion my live you wanna did you wanted to like sticking your mountain and point Daniel die my ten year old was talked this isn't. They're testing. But most notably Italy. David Koresh started saying that everyone would probably have to died for what they believe. And he would tell people if you want to die for what you believe in here's the door and I accepted an offer. I got on a bus in Waco. Brad divorced had spent his teenage years with his mother in the cult he was eighteen when he left. I knew it when I got on that bus that I was probably saving my life. And wanted to save my mother's life holds. A square try to Gator do with me. Back at the Methodist home each of the children reacted in different ways. I'm migraines so nice ass. MI. Satellite. Jon S a Wendell who affected a British accent in this tape. Wanted at all cost to protect her younger siblings from the knowledge of their mother's death. I was Arlington and that our mom having killed do you remember thinking to yourself shouldn't hold my sister my brother yeah. I just wanted to protect them and I thought of myself from being much older and in when there firefighters all of how you tell someone that commuter mom hidden fees. Who think. JoAnne Vega was completely on responses. But. As Perry tried to get her to open up. While. Did you talk to mom put it. But this was. She said Burton. Their mere mention of what might happen to her mother is enough to just shut her down. And it was if it was sad. Doctor Perry tried to reassure the children their parents would soon come out and get them. But the children knew better. I have some were your parents they spoke about them as if they were already dead. Because it just expected this have happened and that's what's going to happen in the my parents are dead their god that we are already. Our alone. Little by little children live slipped. That they knew who held the standoff would end. These are the children after all whose children nursery rhymes stroke of death. The children however couldn't get the psychiatrist to believe it until he asked you NASA to draw a picture of the compound. To sort of strong flames and she drew some steps and us at once that she said that's what's gonna happen and Sobel what is this is a Safire has an explosion and what are these steps that's those are steps up to happen. And national what does that mean she's. Now you'll find. And there it was in Crayola colors the eerie prediction of fire. It ended up just as John SA have drawn it after 51 days of standoff in negotiation. Federal agents decided to end the siege sending tanks and tear gas into the compound. And. Yeah yeah. Yeah. Plug. These voices from wiretaps show according to the FBI that it was correction his followers. Who set the fire in which they would die. I watched my mother died on television. I was just Nam I didn't cry that. Dislodged. Just at the fire was started on and sat Netherlands. First time crash and headed react. Thank general. Awareness day. There's I was like watching hill writes from her. This is horrifying. I can still see that image today will never rest my life. It was a sad day when the Waco compound went up in flames ten years ago. Such a waste of life 75 people died in that fire living out the apocalyptic prophecies. Of David Koresh. But imagine what it was like for the children who had left the compound before the fire. Watching one or both parents die. How have they dealt with that. I'm running Hillary's. In the almost lose. You wanna make most of them get back. For the ten years since Kerry jewels mother died at Waco curious had trouble dealing with. Or even feeling emotion. I couldn't cry for a long time I wanted to really badly. He just would not calm tears just wouldn't come and it was very frustrating. Her father says Keary still won't go to funerals it's just too hard. She's now a senior Michigan State she'll graduate in June with a double degree political science and economics. She has had to overcome a great deal. Thank you mr. chairman Kerry welcome and thank you for being here you can begin. It was common for David. Steve 1995. Jury told congress at a Waco hearing how she had become koresh's youngest bride when she was just ten years old. And we warn you some of the details are graphic and hardy here. I was wearing a long white T shirt and panties he kissed me and sat there. But then he laid me down. Her mother knowing what was to happen considering it an honor for her daughter had dropped her off at a motel in Waco. David Koresh was there waiting for. He took his penis and rubbed it on the outside of my vagina while you still kissing me. I've known this would happen sometimes I just laid there and sad state of the ceiling. Not easy testimony for a fourteen year old to give this or she read her statement at the time I didn't feel bad about it. I have been trained. From a very early age that this was a good thing. I remember sitting gas station wondering what I would do it again. I wouldn't fade but I was nervous this is soon before I left my mother for what turned out to his last time. She descent will you know how does it feel. You know do you feel different she knew it was coming to you so she wasn't surprised. Months later her father would find out what had happened and was beside himself I wanted to kill him. And I wanted to kill him again. There isn't. Justice. For someone who does that to a child. Death is not justice. He tried to take. Not only her body. But he did so without any regard whatsoever for her soul. For her heart. Kerry's father blamed both Koresh and Carey's mother. But Kerry for gives and still adores her mom. She is just so Pigram. Loving men and and motivated. Everything she tracked. She came hundred tankers. The mistake is that she gave a 110% of the wrong person. Some bolsa. She chose her religion over you yes but do I blame her now. That's an enormous thing to say that someday when you have kids. You'll know this to say. A parent chose something over their child. Is an enormous thing. To be perfectly honest. I love her. And she messed up. What more is there for me to say. I saw her give her. Wow that's all that I had to guess. As for Brad Morse to resell a policeman in Colorado. So far April 19 has been. The worst day of my life it most devastating. That's they were mother died. And she enough to. Four years Brad told anyone ill asked that his mother had died in a house fire. It wasn't until after he was married but he could tell his wife that he'd spent ten years in the cult but still he has warm memories of his mother. I miss the a great mother that you clothes and as her. Her being here you know his term for press world. Any has two daughters what will he tell them out here shouldn't. Lose and a dedicated team and religion. Prudence. Is this. And I think voters are wrong. Should NASA Wendell is a straight a college student. Still struggling with what it means to be a child of Waco. The and Tina's and the hurt that we feel. Is so incredible and acknowledged ever have to experience sad. Gin asset her sister Chan marais and their two Brothers were orphaned by the fire and aunt and uncle in Washington State took the men. The children share an extraordinary bond. Now we can either now file hearts and just dwell on it Arlington forward. And live our lives the way we want and let them. But it won't ever excuse the mistakes that army. And the things that led up tar parents being killed. JoAnne Vega was seven when her parents died in the fire she lives of their half sister in Hawaii. She couldn't read when she left the cult. You I know we're in school sophomoric. And I should be seen culinary asking that you get this kind of get a Mac and moved. Sky -- moto has not only had to deal with the loss of his father is also had to deal with who his father was. Remembers guy was koresh's own son his favorite or my favorite sons here this is got a warrant skirted. But he has few memories of his father and children that's that the. Part of me that really my dad die. When he'd. Almost three years they're just like a shadow. I do not want to demonize. My children's father anymore than he's already been demonized. Dino Comodo is a psychiatric nurse in Hawaii were sky is a boy scout she tells him his father was not evil. Just sick. There's no doubt in my mind that he heard a voice in his head. And that he believed it was god. Sky no Comodo recently went back to Waco it's looking for what he lost. And on this empty sweep of Texas prairie. Almost nothing is left almost no Trace of the religious compound where their parents live and die. Feeling of being exciting news I like being graveyard. It was a good place. The memorial the field of crepe myrtle trees and stone markers for each life lost. 25 of them for the children who'd. For the children who survive their years on the David Koresh they say are just part of who they are. But each expressed a frustration. That no one has ever explain to them why the government. After 51 days forced the confrontation at Waco but almost all of us days. Once again FBI negotiator Byron sage. Do you think the ten years. Various some of these emotions. Doesn't. I'm honored to have some part. He and helping to facilitate. Getting them out safely. I just wish him. That the rest of people who come home. In ten years no one from the government no one involved in the siege that resulted in the death of their parents. Has ever sat down with the surviving children of Waco and no one. I've been waiting for those responsible. For. To make a public apology. If they could make or an apology to. Families of all lives lost you know I could forgive him. I just wish someone would take ownership for that Wednesday. I'm sorry that you had to lose your pants that you can't have a future with them that there out of your life. To this how hard is that to do. When we asked him Byron sage the lead negotiator for the FBI at Waco. Did agree to meet the children he was sympathetic march but he didn't pull any punches. I cannot in good faith tell you that I admire your terms. Because if your parents were in fact involved in the murder. Of those ATF agents then they needed to stand. In judgment out that neither did the children with their questions. What about the ATF agents have or are you sound like here. KF in the FBI seem like they're so. In the right there was no other possible it that this could have been voyage there are fire trucks nearby. How come they couldn't put out the fire. It's hard to rescue people that have an M sixteen or AK 47 point action. I honestly feel that this would've ended tragically. No matter what I'm not trying to say that the FBI or ATF. Does nothing wrong. We're human. But I can tell you matter of factly and rookie straightening nine we did nothing to try to intentionally. Harm or let alone. Kill. Anybody. There should be. A natural parental instinct. To get your kids out of harm's way. That's what we banked on with parents and we were wrong. Do you support. All the actions of the FBI during our secure days. The short answer to your question is yes. Was it successful no it was not and for that I think everybody that was involved will. Forever regret it. But Byron sage did acknowledge the federal agents most critical misjudgment. And that was. Underestimating David Koresh. Underestimating the control. That this man had exerted over here of course I think that he was a con man to cut right to the to the chase and has chosen area of con was religion. The tragedy is that your loved ones did believe his message. And they were willing to die fourth. For an hour it was back and forth porn at the end. I said I wanted to play a videotape of the Waco fire the fire in which each child lost one. Or both parents. I wasn't sure the young people could or would watch it. And if you can't look at disclosure us as what shall here is Byron doing the last desperate negotiating. Surprising Jim me all seven strained forward in intently watched. Or say how. This stand off David is over. You claim to be the leader. You claim to be at a profit you claim to be the messiah. That time has to lead your people out now. Bring those people out safely and we sure people while they. Feel messiah. The tape ended. And I realize the person who hadn't watched or couldn't watch. Was Byron sage. Those are the last review says. I just couldn't copper hand that. That David. Or the parents. Were not bringing their kids out of that inferno. And can't tell you the range of emotion that. Those were the last words. Byron sage told us after the interview that he hoped he'd help the children as much as they'd helped him. But for the children of Waco finding their own peace. Would be a much more daunting task when the Waco compound went up in smoke ten years ago the surviving children were scattered across two continents. Largely left alone to deal with their experience this was the first time these seven had met. Since that terrible day and it was immediately clear they shared a bond. And not just a bond of terrible loss. Okay. It is hard to believe these. Children cheered. Some might say bizarre experience. They all suffered similar loss. Rivers you. With your parents. They don't talk about it much for who can really understand. But they found they could talk about it with the job and you a little bit stubborn and very HIV. There were smiles and laughter. And there was resistance. Have a lot of other story of how you were born cockpit. You are right in in my town in challenging taxes. Sadly their parents are not here to answer the children's questions of why man why would their mothers and fathers choose David Koresh and death. Over life with them. Do you think that it's possible that he had of a couple of people. Some of those fires me I'd hit a scenario where couple people would have set fires could be true. One person they sensed it might help was Dino Comodo occur crash wife who fled withers son. Koresh's son sky. If they meant to come out at some point. I have parents. Slapped back by. Choosing David essentially over them that's an abandonment within our deepest level. Parents are sentenced to sacrifice everything for their children. And that gave it. Helping their case. And they will be searching for and compliance. What happens for a long long time is not grammar. It's hard having that is your most distinct membrane. Your pair of them being held and it being attacked that that's your best memory it's. This is feeling unity need. And makes me feel sad because I know that there's no possible way that I could ever get that wish to ask one memory with them. No matter how hard it prayer wish it'll never happen. There's still that. Emptiness of not having him knowing it real pants. Go to Waco on any given weekend and you'll find a small chapel built on the ruins of the old come out. And a few of the faithful still waiting for the return. Of David Koresh.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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