Rep. Jackie Speier opens up about the experience in her new memoir, "Undaunted."
California Congresswoman Jackie Speier still struggles to watch the moments before she was gunned down 40 years ago ahead of the Jonestown Massacre.
“It certainly brings back these horrible experiences,” she told Inside Edition.
She was shot five times as she attempted to escape the Peoples Temple cult in Guyana before the mass murder-suicide of hundreds of members.
“When I looked down at my body, I had a bone coming out of my arm, I had a hole in my leg the size of a football, I still carry two bullets,” she recalled.
In 1978, Speier was an aide to California Congressman Leo Ryan when they visited the commune in the South American nation after learning followers were being abused and prevented from leaving.
"I was very fearful about making the trip so I was about to buy a condo in Virginia and made them add a clause that said, 'This would only be effective if I survive the trip to Guyana.'" she said.
"I wrote a note to my parents, ‘Mom and dad, I love you. Should anything happen be proud because my life has been full of the love you have given me. I have no regrets,’” she recalled.
Not long after arriving, defectors privately started asking for help, and as Seier and Ryan were boarding a plane to leave, gunmen opened fire on the tarmac.
"All of a sudden, I turned around after hearing the noise and Congressman Ryan had been shot and as I turned to move toward him, he was shot again and fell, so I ran to one of the wheels of the plane,” she said.
Five people lost their lives.
At the commune, in what has been called "one of the most harrowing tragedies in American history,” according to Rolling Stone, more than 900 people were killed when the cult leader Jim Jones ordered his disciples to commit suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.
"I really felt I was given a second chance at life, and there was a reason for that and I needed to commit my life to public service,” Speier said.
Speier, who now holds the same seat in Congress as her slain mentor, shares her survival story in her new memoir, “Undaunted.”
“I hope it inspires people that they can really handle more than they think they can,” she said.
Read an excerpt from "Undaunted" here.