Another day in the big city

A small plane carrying New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle crashed into a building on the East Side of Manhattan, killing at least two people (including Mr. Lidle). Coming as it does shortly after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs and the Mets were scheduled to begin their League Championship Series tonight (weather permitting)… this is a peculiarly freaky event (like it wouldn’t be freaky enough otherwise).
As we learned from the John F. Kennedy, Jr. plane crash a few years ago, general aviation is an extraordinarily dangerous business: something like 1 in 100 private aircraft are involved in an accident every year, and 1 in 300 in a fatal accident. I can’t seem to find a link to those stats, but this general link on airplane accident odds is staggering enough, showing one is around 100 times as likely to die (per trip) in a general aviation trip compared to a car trip (and 800 times as likely as on a commercial plane trip). Meaning… there is a damned good reason that private pilots can’t get life insurance. It’s an amazingly dangerous activity (starting with the Wright Brothers, as Orville Wright himself survived the first fatal crash; his passenger did not.)
We permit it, of course, despite its amazing dangerousness, because (1) it (like smoking) is widely perceived as cool, and (2) affluent White men like to engage in it. And it is incredibly land, energy and resource intensive. Like golf. And Americans are notoriously bad at assessing risks. Like the risks of terrorism. Or permitting deviation from our Constitution.
Today’s event is a tragedy to be sure. But in the end, it’s just another story in the big city, a city full of stories. You’all remember a similar tragedy, oh, 61 months ago to the day a few miles south of today’s tragedy (at York and East 72nd, across the street from New York Hospital where the Loquacious Pup was born). That tragedy downtown, involving other planes crashing into other tall buildings, has been used as the all-purpose justification excuse for, among other things, a little war on Iraq that seems to have killed around 3,000 Americans and, according to one survey published in the Lancet, around 650,000 Iraqis.
And there you have it. Another day in the big city.