The darkest of family traditions; succumbing to the odds.

What are the odds?

That is a question we whisper to ourselves. Depending on the statistics-minded nature of our personality, this might be a narrowly precise rumination, or a fleeting consideration; psychic small talk.

What are the odds, we wonder. Will that lottery ticket in our pocket have that cosmic series of numerals? Will tonight’s shortcut end in an abrupt mess of twisted metal and charred flesh?

What are the odds?

Life is odds. It is twists of fate or rehearsed routes of fulfillment. It’s outcome is dependent on the culmination of odds.

Do the odds comply or do they buck our sense of reality’s equilibrium?


When Leonard was 27-years-old, he received some horrible, life-shattering news on a Thursday afternoon: the Los Angeles-bound airplane which his parents were aboard had crashed in New York.

Undoubtedly, Leonard was glued to the radio and television throughout the day as rescue crews worked desperately to find survivors in the cold Atlantic waters. Sadly, none were found;  only remnants of the plane’s destruction were to be see on the water’s surface. It was determined that all passengers had perished. Leonard might have felt morbidly dismayed to learn that the plane crash which claimed his parents’ lives was the worst in United States history. Surely it was a rough time for the young man, but within a decade he had moved to California where he created a small music label which was mildly successful. He soon embarked on a career as a successful music promoter and producer of some enormously successful music festivals.

Throughout the 1970’s some of his acts did quite well, but the sad cloud of his parents’ untimely death always weighed heavily.

About a year after the second musical festival he produced – it was attended by several hundred thousand people – Leonard prepared to head back to Los Angeles from Chicago. It was the Friday before a long Memorial Day weekend.

What are the odds?

Did the consideration ever run through Leonard’s mind? I’m haunted by this.

Did he ever flirt with “invincibility” when it came to flying because of the fact he lost his parents in a plane crash just 17 years ago?  Perhaps notions of fateful immunity toyed with his nerves.

The odds of dying in a commercial airline crash are roughly astronomical. Statistically, the odds of dying on any single flight carries the same odds as any other flight, but if you fly multiple instances throughout your life, this compounded statistical chance, taking into account the number of flights you board, dictates that your odds of dying in plane crash during the span of your life are thus elevated.

Theoretically, these compounded odds should affect only a person’s individual history. But if this person knows someone who was killed in plane crash, does it not also lessen the odds that they will be killed in the same way at another time simply because their sphere of existence includes an incidence where the odds were surmounted? Does meeting great odds reduce them for those acquainted with the unfortunate “winner?”

I don’t suggest it works this way, but in our mind, perhaps there is sanity preservation coding which comforts our doubts when a rare fate touches our life indirectly, and one which presents as a risk we must submit to as well.

Did Leonard, touched by the fate of his parents, ever suspect he was “safe” from the marauding horrors of statistics which had exerted their doomed infinite rareness in taking the lives of those people he loved most?

Leonard’s airplane, also operated by American Airlines, also bound for Los Angeles, might have seemed a secure haven.

And as Leonard’s flight departed from Chicago that afternoon, and as its #1 engine calamitously separated from the wing, severing hydraulic lines and causing the plane to lose lift and stall; as the plane sliced back to the ground uncontrollably, was he struck by the distorted irony that 3 people in the same family unit not only beat astronomical odds once, but twice?

Did he feel statistically blessed?

Sadly, he died in the horrendous plane accident, along with hundreds of other passengers, and he would never learn that this accident was now the worst in the United States.

A family tradition.