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Crosscurrents

Congresswoman Jackie Speier's firsthand account of terror and tragedy at Jonestown

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Flickr user Oakland Local, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Cropped
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Jonestown Memorial, 2010

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the tragedy at Jonestown. More than 900 people died, most by suicide, coerced by the cult leader Jim Jones.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier was there. At the time, in the fall of 1978, she was a legal aide to San Mateo Congressman Leo Ryan. That November, she was with Ryan on a fact-finding mission into the People’s Temple in Jonestown. The mission ended in bloodshed and the death of Congressman Ryan. A few years ago, Congresswoman Jackie Speier visited the StoryCorps booth in San Francisco with her senior advisor, Brian Perkins, to share her experience in Jonestown.