Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Angolan Horror

This research paper is about The Angola Horror, a book about one of the worst railroad tragedies of the 19th century. Different aspects of the tragedy like what caused the accident, response from concerned stakeholders and its effects are covered. The paper uses the book itself as the secondary source of information and various analyzes. All arguments are in line with the authors’ intentions.
On the 18th of December, 1867 tragedy struck as the Buffalo and Erie’s Railroad’s New York Express derailed. Charity Vogel makes a historical and factual publication of the eastbound railroad tragedy in The Angola Horror. There were many effects of the aftermath that are documented in the book as shocking details were revealed and effects of the derailment. Effects on victims, witnesses, rescuers and the entire country were of a magnitude never experienced before. Vogel brings readers close to the sad experience as they can place themselves onboard the train. An insight of how it felt to be one of the eighty-seven people who perished brings some relationship and closeness. Daily practices that might have led to the events that transpired on that day of derailment are all evident in The Angola Horror (Randy, 2013).
Tragedy has a serious implication on how citizens socialize. When the sad moment came, all Americans were united more than ever as they called for significant reforms in different sectors. Technological advancement was the pillar of their pleas with the maintenance of a safe environment for adequate innovation being some secondary concerns. From the tragedy, it can be concluded that technology was in question. More needed to be done because advancement in technology in a certain area often leads to an almost equivalent lagging behind in other areas.
Charity Vogel gives a true-to-life and gripping story of the event and what unfolded through it all. She also reveals the fatalities who were involved in the accident in the book. Her story is a combination of sub-stories of the specific characters (some unknown) that were caught up in the disaster, creek ravine fiery scenes, and the train’s fateful run. The book has legislative, legal and journalistic search for the numerous questions asked. Her focus is on what happened to New York Express why the events unfolded as they did. The Angola Horror has a combination of coinciding events as relatives and loved ones of the deceased have their limits of endurance stretched. Drastic stories of the experiences after the disaster are also elaborated. In a broader context, Vogel sets the pace of various under various subjects such as public policy and associated legislation. The technology of railroads, the culture of print media, death together with subsequent mourning during the Victorian Period and stakeholder correlation during the post-Civil War era are a vital concern in the book. The morale of Americans as a nation is evident in the book. Just nine years after the Angola Horror a train crashed in Ashtabula, Ohio under the same circumstances. The following accident served as a chilling coda to The Angola Horror.
The Social Impacts Angola Horror occurred barely two years after the end of Civil War. It had severe social implications as people were adjusting to new ways of living and how to relate to each other. By then sensitivity to death was at its peak mainly because Civil War left American Citizens with a sense of anxiety and endurance. Apart from the war it was a reminder of how life was fragile just when people were about to get some normalcy in life (Randy, Angola Horror Review, 2013). Railroads were so important during that time when people were healing scars from the deadly war. It meant frequent visitation to see loved ones across states, better contacts and good business as well. People who lived in conditions isolated by the weather relied on railroads the most. After the tragedy, mobility was perceived differently as people thought of exposure to fatal accidents and permanent injuries, just like war. Americans became selfless and were ready to give up their lives for their fellows. They reached out in numbers to help with the recovery efforts. Being a witness to charred remains of train unidentified victims, brutal injuries and train wreck was a psychological torture to many. It was one of the fiercest moments when the need for social justice was dire as the government was put to test on how well it can guarantee safety. Although the author does not mention the different five grief stages as they were described by counselors, the atmosphere created by Angola Horror told it all. People were in denial as relatives, and workmates, neighbors, friends and acquaintances of those on board the eastbound train never wanted to imagine their friends were either dead or seriously injured. The railroad company received most of the anger even as their employees felt guilty and responsible. Some employees were opting to quit their railroad jobs. Eventually, the horrible derailment was accepted and realized. The purpose of The Angola Horror is evident all through the book. Charity Vogel exposes connection Americans had with the derailment and failures in various institutions. Her arguments are evidence-based as she points particular loopholes and shortcomings in the railroad company, for example, and blame games that transpired after the tragedy. One of the strength of the book is that it has clear analyzes and in-depth scrutiny of events. After the Angola Horror, the central issue was a question of compensation. All civil lawsuits and public inquiries were all about reparations for the victims. Material interest could however not solve it all as judicial processes, and parliamentary sittings raised democratic government as the fundamental issue. So much was at stake considering the unwritten contract between the state and its citizens. People needed protection as the government was perceived to have neglected its people and chose profits. It was therefore not just a corporate responsibility but a disaster that needed a broad assessment and reassurance. With the absence of necessary and adequate public safety measures, Angola Horror would be reenacted over and over again. Public policy and political innovations remained unreliable and uncertain even as technological innovations avail challenges to people. Tragedies like Angola Horror need a comprehensive investigation with a detailed report on what happened. It is not the case as most studies focus on symptoms of a problem and not the root causes that always lead to recurring incidents. One of the prominent solutions that were developed after the derailment was patenting of the air braking system that was developed by George Westinghouse Jr. in 1869. The innovation was useful as it could stop a train within a fraction of the initial stopping time under the hand braking system. Different findings documented various causes of the derailment like broken wheel, differences in car wheel widths, the difference in track gauge widths, bent axle and deteriorating bridge. No final cause analysis was reported. The industry needed quality tools like reports on potential failures to save lives in future. The nineteenth century had many railroad accidents, and they were to Angola. The twentieth and twenty-first century have also seen disasters of different magnitudes such as Hurricane Katrina, Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion, World Trade Center Attacks, Boston Marathon bombing and John F. Kennedy assassination among others. There have been improvements in terms of response, but there is still room for more to be done. Conclusion
Vogel made her conclusion with an exciting message. She was not surprised at the occurrences at all. According to her technological advancements, was not all Americans needed as it would not be of any impact if systems that form a foundation for the improvements were not of equal measure. She also asserts that for a very long time Angola Horror had been the cause of changes in transport but the derailment has since been forgotten (Vogel, 2013). The final slap to unidentified victims of the accident was the failure on the government’s part to give them respectful memorial just like it was promised. Angola has not yet received due recognition yet there are numerous anniversary events for many people who passed away. Time heals wounds just like Angola victims have since been forgotten.


Randy, K. (2013). Angola Horror Review. In C. Vogel, The Angola Horror (pp. 5-15). New York: Cornel University Press.
Randy, K. (2013). Angola Horror Review. In C. Vogel, The Angola Horror (pp. 106-124). New York: Cornell University Press.
Vogel, C. (2013). The Angola Horror. New York: Cornell University Press.

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