Do You Feel Lucky?

Lucky enough to survive a fourteen-story fall down a chimney? That's what happened to 12-year-old Grace Bergere the other day in New York. She was up on top of the roof of her apartment building trying to show her visiting cousin a good view of the city by night, so she climbed a 25-foot ladder up the side of the chimney, and then accidentally fell into it. Her father and responding firefighters feared the worst, but when they got down to the building's basement and opened the furnace, they found her alive and suffering only from comparatively minor injuries (a broken hip was apparently the worst of it). She was completely covered with soot; the two-foot-deep accumulation of ashes and soot broke her fall. An AP article about the story said that she was hospitalized in "fair condition," but let's be honest: With a fall like that, anything this side of dead is "good condition."

Timing is everything. A fall like that during the time of year when the furnace was actually in use would have resulted in the girl being incinerated. And during the summer months when the furnaces are turned off, the people who maintain the buildings probably go down to the furnaces and shovel out the ashes and soot from the previous winter. Young Grace was lucky that the maintenance guys weren't all gung-ho about getting down there and cleaning the furnace out as soon as summer arrived. Sometimes procrastination pays off, even if it might be for someone else.