Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 20, 2013

Across America, a week of chaos, horror — and hope


But April 2013's convergence of events is extremely rare, statisticians say.

Such calculations are based on the likelihood of each individual tragedy, said Michael Baron, a professor of statistics at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Baron has no actual data on how often this week's events have separately occurred throughout history. But he estimated that if a terrorist attack occurs once every four years, a suspicious mailing once per year and an industrial accident twice per year, there is a .000004 probability of them all happening in the same week — "once in 4,808 years."

Such absurd odds were too much for the satirical publication The Onion to resist.

The Onion "report" offered this "quote": "'Maybe next time we have a week, they can try not to pack it completely to the (expletive) brim with explosions, mutilations, death, manhunts, lies, weeping, and the utter uselessness of our political system,' said basically every person in America who isn't comatose or a complete sociopath.'"

The week was no joke for Mary Helen Gillespie, a bank vice president who lives near Boston. When she saw news of the Texas explosion, "I got sick to my gut."

"If we were to look at a map of the United States right now — our country is strong and proud and brave and we will win. But if you look at a map, we are bleeding," Gillespie said.

"The world is upside down," she said. "Facebook can't keep up with it, TV can't keep up with it. It's just overwhelming."

"What I found was hope in prayer," Gillespie said. "The more the media started reporting on the stories of hope, the heroes, the first responders, the everyday Americans going out trying to save others. That was my inspiration. It was, OK, this will get better."

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