A survivor of the infamous suicide-murder Jonestown massacre in 1978 recently recalled how she escaped as some 900 people lost their lives.
Tracy Parks, who was just 12 years old, recalled holding her mother’s body, trying to wake her up after she drank cyanide-laced grape punch alongside hundreds more in Jonestown, Guyana.
She said her father yelled at her to “get in the jungle” and “run” as more and more bodies fell to the ground around her. She said her older sister Brenda started running and she followed suit.
“I felt like I wasn’t in my body,” Parks told People. “We were so scared, we just kept running.”
She said they made it out of the jungle three days later, which is when they learned about the massacre that took more than 900 lives, including 304 children. Parks said she lost five family members in the incident.
“My brother broke the news to me little by little as the doctors were nursing me back,” Parks said. “‘No one is alive,’ he told me. ‘They’re all gone.'”
Parks, who is now 51 and owns a daycare in California, said she still struggled with the trauma of the event for years.
“This wasn’t suicide,” she said. “This was murder. Those children didn’t want to die and neither did many of the adults.”
The area, Jonestown, was established by Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones. He established the Peoples Temple in San Francisco in the early 1970s but had to flee following allegations of wrongdoing. Jones and hundreds of his followers moved to the settlement in Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America.
Jones orchestrated the mass suicide at the temple’s nearby agricultural commune after gunmen from his group ambushed and killed U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, of California, three newsmen and a defector who were visiting Jonestown to investigate allegations of abuse on the members.
Jones ordered followers to drink the cyanide-laced grape punch. Most complied, although survivors described some people being shot, injected with poison, or forced to drink the deadly beverage when they tried to resist.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.