What Does David Thibodeau Look Like In 2018? The Waco Survivor Is Carrying The Story Forward
David Thibodeau is one of the only survivors of the infamous siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993. The event took the lives of 76 people that day, including the Branch Davidians leader, David Koresh. Now, A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story, the memoir co-written by Thibodeu about the standoff has provided some source material for the Paramount miniseriesWaco (costume design: Karyn Wagner). Thibodeau's character is played by Rory Culkin in the miniseries, but what does the real David Thibodeau look like in 2018?
Today, Thibodeau is 48 years old and seems to be grateful that Waco is sharing his perspective as someone who lived with the Branch Davidians and experienced the siege firsthand. And it's not a memory that he wants to forget or ignore. “There were times where years and years would go by, not talking about it," Thibodeau said in an interview with The Dallas Observer. "It'll be on the TV, and I'd see Mount Carmel burning, and I'm like, ‘Oh, my God, that really happened. I was there. Wow.’" But with 25 years gone by, there is a surreal aspect to rehashing the past. "Sometimes, it feels like a dream, only knowing it's not. It did really happen. I don't mind talking about it," he added.
Thibodeau and Koresh initially bonded over music. The survivor told The Dallas Observer that he never actually considered himself a Branch Davidian, even after befriending the leader and moving into the compound. According to The Bangor Daily News, Thibodeau currently lives in Maine and still pursues music as an outlet. He drums for a band called The Blast Addicts. “I had a lot of rage inside me. A lot of unchecked anger,” he told the paper. “Now I just hit the hell out of drums instead of raising my voice. That helps a lot.”
According to TIME, Thibodeau was present on set for the filming of the miniseries Waco. He consulted and advised throughout alongside Gary Noesner, an FBI negotiator who was on the other side of the conflict. (This marked the mens' first meeting.) Thibodeau is hopeful that the show will help to tell an untold side of the story, about the people he knew. "I think this is going to change a lot of things. People are being humanized for the first time," he said.
Per Newsweek, Koresh considered himself to be a prophet and the only purveyor of the real truth. He also believed that his purpose was to father 24 children to reign after the world's end. To this end, he convinced his followers that the men among them were all to remain celibate while it was Koresh's duty to impregnate his "spiritual wives." He had fathered 12 children upon his death and some of the brides he took were as young as 12 years old. “To all the people that he hurt, I'm not — I can't be an apologist for David Koresh, but I feel for people that have had negative experiences at the hands of David,” Thibodeau told The Dallas Observer. “Let me put it that way. I think about those people, whether I agree with them on every point or not. Everyone has a right to their experience.”
According to CBS, the initial siege against the Branch Davidian compound was waged because of a suspected weapons violation by the group. The New York Daily News reported that packages with mysterious contents were arriving often at the compound and it began to alarm the delivery driver. After one such package was accidentally opened and revealed a delivery of hand grenades, he alerted authorities of his concerns. The suspicion allowed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to come to the compound with a warrant to search and seize any illegal weapons and this would allow them to also arrest Koresh while they were at it. This initial move led to a 51-day standoff between the Brand Davidians and law enforcement that ended in a fire that consumed the compound.
According to ABC News, a Congressional investigation declared that Koresh and his followers were the ones who had actually started the fire. This has always been a bone of contention among conspiracy theorists and researchers alike. Per another CBS article, an independent filmmaker claimed that he had found evidence of tear gas in the compound that could have potentially caused the massive fire, which would put the government at fault. Both sides have continued to be blamed for the outcome without any real answers either way. Whatever happened that day, David Thibodeau is determined that the Branch Davidians who perished there not be forgotten.