November marks 40 years since the tragic deaths of more than 900 people in a jungle in South America. 

They all belonged to a religious group known as The People’s Temple, led by the charismatic preacher Jim Jones.

The event is described as a collective suicide and a massacre. Some think it was murder.

Jones also had a following in the Bay Area. KRON4 was at a presentation Wednesday in memory of the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.

Jonestown is the single greatest loss of American civilian lives before Sept. 11. Speakers on Wednesday discussed the moments and movements during that time in the 1970s.

KRON4 spoke with a survivor.

“It’s hard each year, this year being the 40th year,” Yulanda Williams said. “I think it’s really, really important that we utilize the previous experience in history to ensure that we just don’t have this happen again.”

On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 people died in a jungle in Guyana–a remote part of South America.

The hundreds of people were members of the People’s Temple, a religious group.

Jones was described as charismatic.

“It was the fact that he was a very charismatic person,” Williams said. “He basically spoke about things that were impressive to people at the time.”

At the time, many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch, while others were forced to shoot themselves.

The event described as a mass suicide.

Yulanda Williams is one of the survivors.

“I always tell people walk a mile in my shoes and that was one of the songs ironically that we used to sing in the church,” Williams said.

Speaking at the California Historical Society in San Francisco Wednesday night, Williams says she started following Jones when he had a church in Ukiah in Mendocino County.

She was 11 years old at the time.

Years later, Jones moved his followers to Guyana.

“I think people were most socially aware in search of a leader, and he fulfilled the role and the void that many of us were experiencing at that time,” Williams said.

Williams left the People’s Temple group when she was 21.

She thanks her family for getting her out of the jungle, as she was not at the massacre

“Fortunately, I wasn’t there when it happened,” Williams said. “However, as a survivor, you, of course, have survivors guilt and remorse and so for me. It’s just the thought every November of the 900 people that I knew and really cherish friendships. I considered many of them like loved ones.”

Williams says she lives to make those lives lost worth meaning and value.

Williams is a lieutenant with the San Francisco Police Department.

She tells KRON4 she would not change her life as these events led her to work for SFPD.