As local, state and federal authorities struggle to deal with the Mount Carmel standoff, Lisa and Bruce Gent are struggling to deal with the human side.
The Gents arrived in Central Texas on Tuesday from Australia seeking word on their twin children, Peter and Nicole, whom they fear were drawn into the Mount Carmel compound with Vernon Howell and the rest of the Branch Davidians.
They also hope to find out if their grandson, Dayland, whom they last saw as a 4-month-old in 1989, was among the children released from the compound. They have said Dayland is Howell’s son.
We’ve come over here to be where our kids are. Maybe that’s selfish, but we’ve come over for that. We’re concerned for everybody in there, but our kids are in there — they’re caught up in this,” Bruce Gent said.
The Gents haven’t heard from either child since Nicole Gent last called in September 1991.
Bruce Gent said his children have been thoroughly “brainwashed” since 1990, and that “they’re not allowed to get in touch with us at all.”
“She called us in the middle of the night, of course. That’s the sort of things they do, to get maximum impact,” he said. “There was little to be learned from that conversation . . . we learned that she was mad with us.”
The Gents are former Branch Davidians who fled the cult about 1990. They were among the group of former cult members from Australia who hired a private detective to come to Waco and try to convince authorities to arrest Howell.
They traveled to Waco on Tuesday with a staffer from the Australian television show that chronicled the story of the Branch Davidians.
Their first experience in Waco was with the pack of journalists who have taken up residence in the city. A television crew, tipped that they would be coming, set up shop at the airport and chased them into the city.
Bruce Gent said some deft driving by their taxi driver, along with an assist from Waco police, who detained the chasing crew, helped them escape.
The couple, looking haggard and worn after more than a day of traveling from Melbourne, Australia, said they were dreading the media gauntlet they will eventually have to run.
“I didn’t want to come across (to America from Australia) because I didn’t want to come on television,” Bruce Gent said. “We’re sick of the whole thing.”
The pair made lengthy visits in Waco and other Branch Davidian locations and were among the pupils of Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, during those visits.
After they decided to drop their connection with the cult, Howell traveled to Australia to try to bring them back in.
Lisa Gent said she is not surprised that Howell failed to keep his promise to surrender peacefully after his 58-minute missive on the Book of Revelation was aired by Dallas and Waco radio stations and a nationwide religious radio network.
“They will tell you anything. They will tell you lies because they think the world lies to them,” Lisa Gent said.
She called inhabitants of the compound “willing hostages” who will do Howell’s bidding.
Bruce Gent agreed.
“He’s been working on them and conditioning them for four years,” he said.