Reliving 'Bloody Sunday'
Part 3 of 3: "The Full Truth"
By David Tereshchuk
|The relatives and friends of the victims endure the pain of reliving the tragic events of 30 years ago, understandably skeptical of the motives of the British government, but hopeful that finally the British government will be forced to admit the truth.
One man (I'll call him Robert) had seen all too clearly one death, that of 22-year-old Jim Wray. Although Robert had given lawyers a written statement, he was feeling conflicted about testifying in the chamber. He shared many Derry people's long-term distrust of the British
authorities and saw no persuasive reason to believe Saville would be any better than Widgery. And, he confessed, he was simply nervous of standing up in public and drawing attention to himself. "I live here," he said, "and this is a small community." He was leery, too, about being cross-examined.
|Photo by Michael McHugh|
David Tereshchuk contemplates the horrors of 30 years ago in front of a monument to the victims in Derry, in this still from the documentary "An Unreliable Witness," by GRACE Pictures.
Before I went to the Guildhall, Robert and I talked of the terror and confusion we had each felt as young men. I had been 23, on what I thought was a routine reporting assignment; he had been in his teens, out for the day and excitedly stoning the troops. At about 4:15 that Sunday afternoon both our lives had (we agreed, from the vantage-point of 29 years' hindsight) changed unutterably in some way. Robert went on to hear the radio coverage of my testimony while he drove through modern-day Bogside and he resolved then, he told me later, to give his evidence in person. "You came to give evidence for yourself," he said. "But you also helped me decide what to do. I'm going to just stand up and tell them exactly what I saw."
Ahead of my appointed day on the stand I had wanted, if I could, to maintain my role as a dispassionate, purely journalistic observer, so I was careful not to talk with families of the dead. When I did finally meet some of them afterwards, they were full of dignity and courtesy, even thanking me for coming and testifying. (I was awkward with them. -- I did not quite know how to answer their thanks.) With a few, there was an inner fury evident alongside the gentle manners, occasionally, some barely contained wildness of emotion.
John, the elder brother of 19-year-old Willie Nash who was killed at the barricade, had also been there on Bloody Sunday -- even though he had been married only the previous day. Now a man in his 50s, his hands shook as he spoke of stress and ill-health dogging his entire family ever since 1972. Another victim's relative spoke of living today on medication, and said she
would have wanted to spend longer talking with me, but her "nerves couldn't really stand it."
|Photo by Michael McHugh|
David Tereshchuk gazes at the names of the victims in this still from the documentary "An Unreliable Witness," by GRACE Pictures.
A lot rides on the lengthy legal process now unfolding in Derry's Guildhall. Tony Blair, we can firmly hope, wants a clear assessment of what happened on January 30, 1972 which is different from Widgery's "findings." Why else hold the new inquiry? The British Army wants a damage-limitation exercise, at the least. Much of Northern Ireland's nationalist-minded community wants someone to pay, or at least to be clearly blamed.
For the citizens of Derry the daily procession of witnesses brings in its wake pain, horror, anger, bafflement ... and who can know what else? But one family member simply said to me -- and his tone precluded the slightest hint of any other agenda -- "However uncomfortable we might find it, we just want the full truth to be told."
The Victims (Names and Photos)
Editor's Note: WGT Contributing Editor David Tereshchuk, a former producer for ABC and CBS News, is a media consultant for the United Nations. His article, "Return to Derry," first appeared in the June/July 2001 issue of Irish-America magazine.