Thursday, October 16, 2003

Fate's blog.

News of the Staten Island ferry accident unnerved me a little more than most far-off accident reports. I wasn't anywhere near, but an old friend of mine was -- he had considered visiting Staten Island yesterday on business, according to a LiveJournal posting he made this morning, but had decided to stay on Manhattan. Whether a different decision on this point would have taken him to the time and place of the accident, I couldn't say -- he probably couldn't say -- but it's a distinct possibility.

Also, I could imagine the accident in some detail. It's a good ride, the Staten Island ferry. I was on it only about 16 months ago -- riding across and back, around sunset in the summer. I stood outside most of the time, talking with an old man who was returning with his great-grandson, a child about a year old, to Staten Island. He talked at some length about the naval yards that used to be on the New Jersey side, where he had once worked.

The ship is large, so it's hard to imagine it coming to a sudden stop. But as it approaches the dock on Staten Island, most of the passengers crowd next to the exit, which naturally is in the direction of the dock. That must have made the accident worse.

How to interpret fate? No one has come up with a satisfactory reason why some people die in a horrible accident, and others live, and still others make small, everyday decisions that steer them away from the same event. It's easy enough to say, "It's fate," or "God's will" but all that really means is, "I don't know why."


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