Rep. Jackie Speier, survivor

At the age of 28, Jackie Speier was an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan when he went to Guyana to investigate Jim Jones. He was assassinated, she was shot five times and left for dead on an airstrip.

She survived that, ten surgeries, death threats, and began getting elected to public office. When she was 43 and pregnant, her husband was killed in an automobile accident.

The loss of my husband was more traumatic than anything that had ever happened to me. I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I had no choice. I was now the single mother of two children, one yet unborn. Because my late husband had no life insurance, I was financially devastated, too. I had to sell everything, including my home.

I only tell this story because I don’t know how I would have coped with this had it not been for my experience, 16 years earlier, on that dreadful airstrip in Guyana.

There is a quote from Winston Churchill that reminds me of Leo Ryan: “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

It is now the 30th anniversary of Jonestown. In April 2008, Spiers was elected to Congressman Ryan’s old seat in the House of Representatives.