'Terror on a Train' review: LIRR massacre survivors talk

Investigation Discovery's one-hour special marks the 20th anniversary

Investigation Discovery's one-hour special marks the 20th anniversary of the Long Island Railroad shooting, bringing viewers into the aisles of the LIRR train where gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire upon the innocent victims trapped on their rush hour commute home from New York City. (Credit: Investigation Discovery)

THE DOCUMENTARY "Terror on a Train"

WHEN|WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on Investigation Discovery

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Twenty years ago this week, a Jamaican immigrant named Colin Ferguson boarded a 5:33 LIRR commuter train in Brooklyn bound for Hicksville. As the train approached the Merillon Avenue station in Garden City, he pulled out a handgun and began shooting. Six people were killed, 19 wounded. Survivors and family members are interviewed here, including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (whose husband was killed); her son, Kevin McCarthy (who was seriously injured); Tom McDermott; Kevin Zaleskie; Lisa Combatti (pregnant at the time); Robert Giugliano; Debra Weber; and John Forni. The documentary is produced by native LIer Charlie Minn.


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MY SAY To observe that "Terror on a Train" is painful, emotional and horrifying is self-evident. To observe that the 43-minute running time is simply too short is, as well.

This edited version of the recent 90-minute film -- which had a one-week run in a couple of area theaters as "The Long Island Rail Road Massacre" -- barely begins to explore all that still needs exploring, even 20 years later.

Was, for example, Judge Donald E. Belfi's ruling that Ferguson could represent himself some monstrous perversion of the judicial process that compounded the victims' agony? No answer here, but it is worth noting that an insanity plea might have resulted in a drastically reduced sentence. Maybe Belfi knew exactly what he was doing. Or: How have gun laws changed since Dec. 7, 1993? (The one-year anniversary of Newtown is 10 days away, which in itself offers a hint of an answer.)

But "Terror" is still a powerful reminder that when the cameras have gone, there are people who still have to reassemble their shattered lives. By giving them voice, "Terror" is testament to that lifelong rebuilding process: "The metaphor of a broken heart is very real," says Mi Won Kim, sister of Mi Kyung Kim, a 27-year-old from New Hyde Park who was killed by Ferguson. "You really do feel that pain in your chest. My doctor said it was normal ... [But] I think you essentially have to grow a new heart."

Watch, if you can, for another reminder that Ferguson's crime didn't end after a few bloody minutes. The victims are still out there, groping through a fog that won't disperse, perhaps never will.

BOTTOM LINE Some survivors speak, but this film is incomplete.

GRADE B

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