We were about to board the planes for the flight back to the United States. Jim Jones didn't want us to leave, at least not alive. A tractor trailer loaded with men armed with shotguns and rifles pulled up and opened fire on us at that airstrip. Congressman Ryan was gunned down, having been shot 40 times. The first and only congressman in the history of this country to be assassinated during the line of duty. I was shot five times and left to bleed on that airstrip for 22 hours. Back at Jonestown, over 900 people lost their lives in a mass murder and suicide that night. This is what I awoke to on that long day. I was 28 years old, and I was waiting to die. I laid awake all night fearing some of the gunmen would come back and finish us off. Time passed, and local Guyanese people offered me rum to try and get me through the night. I had a lot of time to think. I promised God that if I lived, I would make every day count. I promised that I would make something out of my life if I was allowed to keep my life. Well, here I am. I have chosen a career as a public servant. One, I hope many of you will contemplate as you move forward in your lives.
Leo Ryan's life and his deeds are about a life that was so much more than Guyana. He was relentless in his search for answers, answers that were not readily available by just asking questions...We remember him today because his story is so much like those of most Americans; we want to believe the best and we sometimes hear the worst.
Jackie Speier, quoted in article: "Tribute to congressman Leo Ryan held in Foster City", San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 2003
I'm a big believer that success is never final and failure is never fatal., San Francisco Examiner,April 5, 2008