Documentary to Consider Life of Jackie Speier


I am a filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about California State Senator Jackie Speier. The documentary will focus on her life, including her survival from life-threatening wounds sustained at the Port Kaituma airstrip in November 1978.

I am searching for anyone who saw Jackie, interacted with her, or has any photos or footage from the two days she spent at Jonestown as a member of Rep. Leo Ryan’s staff. I would also like to speak with anyone who can give me a first-hand account of the chain of events at the airstrip, from the time the congressional delegation arrived after its dramatic second day in Jonestown, to the evacuations of the wounded 24 hours after the shootings. This would include people like Steve Sung, relatives of Don Harris, Bob Brown and Greg Robinson, and members of the Parks and Bogue families who left Jonestown with Ryan.

I know that there have been a number of filmmakers who have covered this event, but our documentary will focus more on the survivors, particularly Jackie. My hope is that this focus will serve to personalize the horrors the survivors endured, so that events like these will never happen again.

Our profile will be of a woman who has had more than her share of tragedies. Years after Jonestown, she lost her husband in a terrible car accident while she was pregnant with their second child. She was also in another traffic accident, when she got hit by a car while running.

Jackie has served as a state senator from the district that her mentor, Leo Ryan, once held, but will leave the legislature at the end of this year due to term limits. She ran as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, but lost the primary to John Garamendi.

Throughout her political career and personal life, Jackie Speier has been a beacon of hope for many Californians who have taken inspiration from her courage to take tough stands on difficult issues, such as gun control, privacy, and the prison guards’ union. She is well respected by both Republicans and Democrats.

* * * * *

I’d also like to make a second, tangential request. As I was going through Jackie’s personal materials from Guyana, I discovered a letter that had never been delivered to family members at Jonestown. I am trying to track down family members related to Georgia Lacey. If anyone knows someone related to her, I would love to hear from you. The letter remains sealed.

(Michealene Cristini Risley can be reached at