Jonestown Relative Issues Call to Action

November 19, 1978, Sunday at 2:00 p.m. I was a student at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. I had returned from church, eaten lunch, and changed into my nurse’s aide uniform, ready to go to work at the Nursing Home. I had the college radio station on. That’s when I heard the announcement: Mass Suicide in Jonestown. My cousins, Ronnie and Nancy, were there. I called my mom in Southern California. A few days later it was confirmed. They had both died.

November 18, 2006, Sunday afternoon. After church I went to my classroom to do some work. At some point I started reading the jonestown report. Pictures of Ron and Nancy and their mother are on my desk. Tears came and I wondered if we would ever know the full truth of what happened on November 18, 1978. What happened to Ronnie and Nancy? What was their life really like? Where are all the belongings of those who died? Where are Ronnie and Nancy’s journals? There were more questions than answers.

I decided to write the president and ask him those questions. I knew he wouldn’t see the letter, but I expected some kind of response from his mail staff. But I didn’t get one. So in June 2007, I made a copy of the first letter and enclosed it with a second. I have not had any reply. I’m very disappointed. They didn’t even acknowledge receiving it.

I’m afraid most people want to forget about what happened in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. But there are many of us who can’t, and our hearts are often heavy. You barely hear it spoken about, even on the anniversary.

Perhaps the families of the victims need to unite and write the President, Congress and newspapers to ask all our unanswered questions and to demand the release all the property of those who died. They say the “squeaky wheel” get things done. Maybe we need to become the “squeaky wheel.”

Everyone must decide for themselves what they will do. Follow your heart.

(Susan Ashby may be reached at