As the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre approaches, Smith’s deeply personal story contributes to development of unique program at GenCure
October 9, 2018
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Forty years ago this fall, Susan Smith was in her first year of college when news began to trickle out of an obscure South American country called Guyana.

A congressman on a fact-finding trip had been murdered. Other members of his group, including journalists and staff members, were killed or injured.

And then, more news. Hundreds of members of a religious/political cult led by Rev. Jim Jones had died, most by suicide, at a commune called Jonestown. They were a part of 909 deaths on Nov. 18, 1978, the single largest loss of American civilian life until Sept. 11, 2001.

Three of Susan Smith’s cousins were among cult members who died at the Jonestown Massacre that day.

“It was horrific,” she says. “People didn’t know what to say. I had no one to talk with about it, and my family was wrapped up in its own grief.”