Titanic Express: Searching for My Sister's Killers

Titanic Express: Searching for My Sister's Killers - Richard Wilson Wilson chronicles the aftermath of his sister’s death, a VSO volunteer, who was killed in an ambush upon a bus in Burundi in 2000. One has to be fairly callous to read this and not feel sympathy for Wilson and his family. And, like all stories about grief, there is something incomparably compelling and sincere in reading about someone’s experience. Especially when someone has enough courage to open themselves up at their most vulnerable for the world to consume.

Wilson intermingles his narrative of personal coping of his sister’s loss with his dogged experience obtaining information on the Burundi FLN opposition group that were responsible for the ambush. In the course of investigating, Wilson has contact with Burundi refugees, an investigative reporter, family members of his sister’s Burundi fiancé and members of the FLN itself.

However, there is a part of me that wonders “why this book?” It is not really an exposé. There are email contacts with these individuals, a couple phone calls and a scattering of unrevealing personal encounters. Bureaucratic run-arounds with the British embassy and the Burundi government. All in an attempt to get details about what exactly happened during the ambush. Who did what? Who is ultimately responsible? How to get justice?

And that’s the core of this book. Disillusionment at the world and anger at injustice. Wilson repeatedly speaks of the “new, changed Western world” which has come about after September 11th and the war in Iraq. How government manipulations have undermined the “ideal of universal, non-negotiable human rights.” He openly speaks of his naïve trust in government and the world prior to the death of his sister. How now he sees that politics deal in the currency of human lives.

Which is what left me feeling uneasy. September 11th nor the bus ambush revealed this cold-heartened reality. The 20th century is the magnum opus of human cruelty. Whether discussing the Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, or countless other examples involving the massacre of countless millions, Wilson‘s self-admitted naiveté seems hard to relate to.

Likewise, his anger unsettles as well. Which is not a judgment on what he feels, but rather how it ties into his actions for justice.
I still find it impossible to believe that it’s wrong to get angry about what happened on 28 December 2000, and everything that followed. In fact, I think that we need to get more angry about such injustices, rather than less so. Anger certainly seems preferable to indifference. Part of me thinks that if you don’t get angry about such an injustice then you haven’t truly understood it. I still believe that justice must be done over the Titanic Express massacre, and that we won’t get it if we don’t keep fighting for it. At every stage of this fight, it has been my anger that has kept me motivated.
What justice is satisfactory? The arrest of the shooters, of the man who ordered the shooting, or the UN intervening and exterminating the FNL? This angry justice- vengeance- is insatiable. To choose to live in indignation at injustice is to sentence oneself to constant anger at the world.

Maybe I simply come to this with a different viewpoint. Wilson sees the world as a just place that needs to right the occasional wrong. I see nature and our existence as inherently unjust in which we carve out the best of ourselves and the people around us. Due to that difference, Wilson’s words fell short for me.