Losing the Lottery

The Worst Night of My Life
by Mark L Berry
(Inspired in Prof Schwartz Advanced Writing Course at UMSL -Spring 2009)

Please listen to this song dedicated to Susanne after reading the story below.

Words and Music by Mick James
Performed by Mick James

This story was published in The Greenwich Time and The Stamford Advocate on July 17, 2009

I lost the lottery, but you might ask, “Who hasn’t?” Everyone knows the odds are millions to one of getting six out of six numbers exactly correct, especially when each number can be anywhere from one to fifty. Every ticket loses, with the rare exception.

Statistically speaking, flying on an airplane is the safest form of transportation. The odds are far greater of dying on the highway than in an aircraft. Want real risk? Ride a motorcycle, or better yet, mount a horse. In aviation we have redundancy (at least two of everything), checklists, certified pilots and mechanics, federal oversight, and a long list of other rules and procedures that keep the airplanes safely in the air. The odds of dying in an aviation disaster mirror the odds of winning the lottery, only the consequences are life-ending instead of life-changing.

On a Wednesday summer night I sat at my computer in Connecticut, filling out my will—ironically. I had just received software to help me do it and a life-changing event was coming up. My fiancée Susanne and I lived with her mom and youngest brother because we were nine days away from buying our first house, from where we would start planning our wedding. She told me, “I’ll be home in a few days, just like one of your trips, Honey Bunny.” She picked up that term of endearment from her new favorite movie “Pulp Fiction” which surprised me because she hated guns and violence and that film was ripe with both. She was on her way to Paris on business and I was sitting around on reserve, ready to fly but only if called out by crew scheduling. I’m a pilot, in case you didn’t know, and Susanne was an international portfolio manager. She could balance her own checkbook down to the penny without a statement and spoke Danish, French, and English fluently. Twice before, I’d been able to trade into the flights that Susanne needed to take to Europe for business. This time the flight was a 747 and not what I flew, a 767, and so it didn’t work out. Plus, I needed to save my days off in the weeks ahead to close on, and move into, our new home. Instead of flying her aircraft, or riding in first class with her, I sat in my temporary bedroom converted office in shorts and a t-shirt sweating without air conditioning through an evening slowly cooling down from ninety degrees when the phone rang.

“Turn on the tv! Turn on the tv!” He was yelling so loud it was hard to tell that it was my long time buddy Glenn.

“What channel? Why?” I replied.

“Any channel. It’s on all of them.”

“What’s on all of them?”

“Just turn one on, quick! A TWA plane went down.”

“Went down? Where?” I asked.

“Off Long Island. Just turn on a damn tv!”

At first I thought, “Damn! Guaranteed I know someone on that flight. They’re going to have quite a ditching story to tell. I hope nobody got hurt.”

Even in 1996 I had ten years as an airline pilot under my belt, eight of those at TWA. Plus, there were the years at my aviation university as a student and as an instructor. I always knew someone when a plane went down, probably because I know so many people in the business. The odds are different for me because I know so many players. Like buying thousands of lottery tickets changes the odds of winning. I shake hands, I drink beer (on my time off), and I’m not the low-profile type that slides through life unnoticed. First Joe Heuchert died flying freight at Midnight Express when his trim tab jammed and his elevator cable snapped. He was one of my few friends who smoked. He told me cigarettes weren’t going to kill him. I wish he was wrong. Then Kathy Deegan died in an Air Virginia take-off accident. I knew her from our aviation university where only one in twenty student pilots were women. My giant commuter airline roommate Rick Duney, who picked me up over his head when TWA called to hire me and used to dig clams with his feet, later died in a DC-9 icing crash in Cleveland. My one brush with a close call was when Tim, one of my best friends, missed Pan Am 103 that ended up scattered over Lockerbie, Scotland—by a day. It’s the one “It nearly happened to me” story that I get to occasionally hear. He’s now a full Colonel with the U.S. Air Force.

Every channel showed the breaking news. It looked like giant yellow rafts were in the water. I’m not sure what I actually saw on tv that night, but at first glance that’s what it appeared to me to be, probably because that’s what I was expecting. Either they were rescue rafts supplied by arriving boats, or I just saw the aircraft wreckage under yellow night lighting—either way I didn’t remain a spectator long. I’ve been trained, and I know my entire airline has too, to get everyone out of a completely full aircraft in ninety seconds even with half of the emergency exits blocked shut. I’ve known a ditching can be successful long before Captain Sully and his crew performed it admirably on the Hudson River.

In my head I imagined trained friends of mine coping with a difficult situation. The tv announced, “TWA 800, a flight bound for Paris…” and I froze in my tracks.

“Damn! That’s Susanne’s flight!”

I dropped my shorts and threw on a pair of jeans. In a split second, I grabbed my airline ID. For no rational reason I also grabbed my passport. I remember clipping my ID on my shirt like I’d need it to get out of the driveway. I was thinking I’d need it to get into the scene of the accident. I remember stuffing my passport into my jeans while dialing a person I knew would have some answers. Greg was my mentor, friend, and the head of the Critical Incident Response Team for TWA. He took my call.

“Greg, I’m heading out the door. Tell me where to pick up Susanne. She’s going to be pissed that she’s missing her meeting, and stuck in wet clothes.”

“Mark, stay right where you are. Don’t go anywhere.”

“No Greg, Susanne’s on that flight. You won’t find her on the crew list; she’s a full-fare first class passenger.”

“Mark, listen to me. Don’t leave wherever you are. Don’t go down to Long Island.”

“Are you crazy? Susanne’s plane just ditched. I’m going down there to get her. Are you going to tell me where to go or do I have to figure it out on my own?”

“I need to know if there’s anyone there with you. I’ll come if I need to. Where are you?”

“I’m halfway out the door, waiting for you to give me some damn directions.”

“Mark, sit down. Listen to me. I don’t want to have to be the one to tell you this on the phone, but there are no survivors.”

“What do you mean? 747’s can fly with both engines out on the same wing. What happened, did they lose 3? What can fail so many engines—a fuel problem?”

“Mark, listen to me. They didn’t ditch. We don’t know why, but it blew up. There’s no where to go. There’s no one to pick up.”

It took me thirteen years to finally write this story. I’ve told it a few times. Occasionally, someone wants to get inside my head, so they ask, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?” Without hesitation it was the day I had to speak at an overcrowded church in front of 700 people I knew and deliver my final words for Susanne at her Memorial Service. I spoke a lot about her life, but remember best describing how I’d find Blistex in the pockets of every pair of pants I owned—all put there while I was wearing them. She was addicted to the stuff but hated to carry it herself. She’d ask me to hand some to her and I’d tell her that I don’t have any. She’d smile and say, “Yes you do,” and she was right.

Since then, I bought a motorcycle (I’m allergic to horses). I’ve been around the world alone, literally. I host an annual party so that a year doesn’t go by without the opportunity to see distant friends. I deal with every situation the best that I can and I don’t worry about the odds. When I fill up my gas tank, I buy a single quick-pick lottery ticket. Some call it, “the loser’s tax.” The odds of winning are astronomically against me, I know. Odds and statistics make great theory discussions—but in real life, I’ve lost the lottery before.

  1. I was a flight attendant for USAir at the time…and on a LGA layover the night TW 800 went down. I remember getting to my hotel room, and turning on the tv…to the news. I remember vividly, how hot it was that night, and as an airline employee…I remember just being so sad. I am now retired, after 23 years…and just wanted you to know how moving your story was. I wish you well…and Godspeed in your journey.

    — Phil Quattrone    Tuesday, July 20, 2010    #

  2. What a touching story. I’m typing this with tears in my eyes. Thx for sharing and may God help you through the tough times.

    — Teri Gutweiler Notorangelo    Monday, March 01, 2010    #

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I graduated from high school with Rick Duney. I can imagine him picking you up when you got your good news. He was a real cheerleader and so loved. I am sorry for your losses.

    — Deb Gorman    Sunday, February 28, 2010    #

  4. Mark,

    Thank you for the link. A very thoughtful piece of writing. Sorry to be so late in acknowledging it, but I just returned from Italy. We hope to see you on September 19th.


    — Jerry Castellano    Tuesday, July 28, 2009    #

  5. Powerful story. Interesting that the writer chose to make to comparison to winning the lottery. The NY Lottery winning pick 3 that night was 800. At the time, it was seen as more fuel for the conspiracy theorists.

    — Just a Reader    Tuesday, July 28, 2009    #

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Mark, as hard as it was. I feel honored to consider myself your friend, and I know that my life is richer for having met you.

    — Jennifer Roeder    Tuesday, July 28, 2009    #

  7. Hi Mark, God bless you and give you strength to endure the pain of losing your beloved Susanne. I feel so much pain in my heart every time I think about the wonderful coworkers and families of coworkers that were taken from us so suddenly and tragically that ill-fated night. TWA F800 will never be forgotten. The TWA family bond will never be broken. Thanks for sharing your story and I look forward to reading your book.

    — Rosetta Valenza    Thursday, July 23, 2009    #

  8. Great write Mark. Love you!

    — Cherie Randall-Rubin    Monday, July 20, 2009    #

  9. Thanks for sharing….. such a tragedy!!! I will never forget the horror of that day. Hope you are well.

    — Melissa Miller    Monday, July 20, 2009    #

  10. Mark~ Very, very moving. Thanks for sharing the link and for finally writing the story.

    — Sheila Mabbitt    Monday, July 20, 2009    #

  11. Mark,

    I’m grateful that we have remained in contact throughout the years. Thank you for sharing your story.

    — John Park    Sunday, July 19, 2009    #

  12. Mark, Great letter and w/ great respect, I admire your courage to share your thoughts. I can honestly say when I think of TWA 800, I think of you and your loss, to this day.

    Mike Schuster

    — Mike Schuster    Sunday, July 19, 2009    #

  13. My husband was a TWA employee at the time of this tragedy. We knew no one personally on that flight, but felt as if we had lost family that night. Your story was so very touching and even after all these years, your love for Susan, as well as the heartache you have endured, comes through. Hopefully, sharing your story will help you to continue to heal and to know that you are not alone in remembering this tragedy.

    — Elaine    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  14. Bless you, man, for keeping her memory alive.

    — Brian Hilgert    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  15. “I think of you every time I go over the ‘Magere Brug’ in Amsterdam, and more now after reading your story. Very touching. I don’t know how you do it, live your life so positively… Please keep me posted on your party schedule! I changed jobs recently so perhaps now I can finally combine a visit to te best party of the year with my next trip to STL! XX”

    — Sanne Draai    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  16. Mark, I remember reading this the last time you sent it to me and it still touches my heart. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember looking at Donny and asking who we know that flies for TWA….you were the only one that came to mind so I immediately emailed you. I remember being so excited to see that you had emailed me back to say that you were ok, but ended up having a very sad feeling in my heart for you and your loss. I’m sure this anniversary still brings it all back to you…you aren’t alone in your thoughts! Hope all is well with you otherwise….we are in NY trying to enjoy our very chilly summer vacation. The kids and I go back to school on Aug. 10th so our time here is almost over. Always enjoy reading your updates….maybe one of these years Donny and I will surprise you and show up at your annual bash!!
    Susanne (Moore) Shaw

    — Susanne Shaw    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  17. Dear Mark,
    I just read your article that was posted in the Greenwich
    newspaper and my heart goes out to you and Susanne’s
    family. I Was one of the TWA flight attendants that
    worked on the trauma team in New York—I was the team leader
    for all the families in Montoursville. I will never forget
    the tragedy of Flight 800, and all the beautiful angels
    that were lost forever.
    We had a mass said at Saint Michaels Church in Chicago
    in remembrance of Flight 800. You and your family are
    in my thoughts and my prayers.

    — Sandra Faller    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  18. Fab article, Mark.
    Your in my thoughts today. XO. KO
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

    — Kathleen Opatchko    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  19. I was at my girlfriends house watching the summer Olympics that fateful night and found out later that I too knew someone on that flight. I cannot even BEGIN to imagine what you went through during that time but your story is very inspirational. Next time you fill up, ask Susanne to pick the numbers for you. I still use the #‘s my mom, dad and oldest brother (all of whom are no longer with us ) gave me to get them a lottery ticket. It’s in tatters in my day runner since I took it out of my wallet for more safe keeping but I still play those same numbers. Ya never know !!! Thanks, Mark. You’re a good man and your will is strong. Can’t wait to read the next novel !!! ——————————————————————- Dave

    — Dave Gaeng    Saturday, July 18, 2009    #

  20. Mark
    Thank you for sharing your story. May
    Suzanne’s love and beautiful memories remain forever in your heart until that beautiful day in which you will be reunited forever.
    I am former TWA Flight Attendant and had worked that flight numerous times. I was off that day and had taken my mother out for dinner. I returned home to an answering machine full of messages asking if I was ok….I could not imagine why so many people were calling me to see if I was ok…I then turned on the TV and I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing. I had a friend that was supposed to work that flight that night and traded out of it at the last minute. I knew numerous crew members on it and every year I am painfully reminded of July 17, 1996.
    I am so sorry for your loss and wish you peace.

    — Cathy    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  21. Mark,
    I never heard the story before.. my heart goes out to you and you are in my prayers.

    — Cleve Wallace    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  22. Mark,
    I’m thinking of you today. I just finished reading your article, very touching

    — Jane J. Orr    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  23. Just a note to say thanks for sharing and helping all of us find peace in a very painful day of our lives…I was in Toronto when I got the call to head to New York to assist…and a day doesn’t go by without me remembering!

    — Rhonda    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  24. Mark,
    I want to thank you so much for recounting this. My mom, my sister and I remember that horrible night pretty clearly too. We think of the other families who suffered the TWA 800 loss often and hope that everyone has found their own peace and strength. It seems like the book has been a good process for you – I look forward to reading it! Take care!

    — Jillian    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  25. Thinking of you today :-) Great to see your article out there.

    — Christine K. Bertolino    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  26. Mark, this must be a very emotional time for you. The production and release for today must be somewhat
    bitter-sweet. I will be sure to check it out. Very proud to know you Mark. Regards, Eddie.

    — Eddie Lawrence    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  27. I was a 747 flight engineer at TWA. I flew on 17119 just a few days before and it’s still hard to believe it went down. I knew all the cockpit crew and many of the cabin crew. They were good friends. They are often in my mind and I miss them all. Your loss was far more personal than mine and I hope writing about it softens the hurt. Great title. Good luck with your book. I’ll get a copy for my wife and me.

    — PO Dixon    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  28. Mark, Thank you.

    — Larry    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  29. Worked that night at TWA Term A……was a great loss for all of us..
    The TWA Family will live on forever! God’s Speed!

    — Maureen L    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  30. Thank you for telling us about your dear Susanne. I am glad that you are finally able to talk/write about this tragedy. You and all of the other family and friends are in my prayers.

    — Frankie12    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  31. Hi Giant Pilot!

    I hope you are well—this article was so beatuifully written. :)

    I love receiving your novel news—can you deliver to my personal email address rather than my work ([email protected]).

    I am on leave at the moment, so I hardly check my ADP email. Nish and I actually just had a little Nish. Reilly Michael McNish, born July 2nd. What a handful this little guy is!

    Anyway, miss you tons and hope that our schedules line up someday soon. No Fire Island in our summer this year with the little one (maybe off season).


    — Carrie McNish    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  32. Hi Mark,
    I first read your short story in the Greenwich Time today and then found my way to your Pushing Leaves website… I am truly touched by your story. I knew Susanne when I was younger (our mother’s were friends), I too attended GHS (Class of ’82), and then worked with Susanne at GE. I remember meeting you briefly at GE Christmas Party. I do think of Susanne and you often, and know that we all suffered a great loss when we lost Susanne. I am glad you have found an outlet for your grief and a beautiful way for you to carry your memories of Susanne with you for a lifetime.
    My thoughts are with you,

    — Wendy    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  33. Mark,

    As you may know I’m a journalist and this is very well written and communicated. I hope things are going well for you and of course your book!

    Let me know if you are in NYC anytime soon.


    — Cheryl Casone    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  34. Mark, when your name comes up within the family, you can not imagine just how much you are admired and looked up to. Your positive approach to life and ability to make everything good or bad a life lesson, not only for yourself, but for everyone else around you, is truly an amazing quality. You were blessed to have had Susanne in your life, even if only for the time you did, but she was blessed to have you as well. You will both be with each other forever and because of your wonderful writings, she and her amazing qualities will be with all of us, as well. Sorry for any and all pain you have endured cousin, but thank you for finally sharing your inspirational thoughts. We love you and hope to see you soon. Be safe!!!!!

    — Chris Berry    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  35. You’re amazing.
    A great friend to many.
    I’m very glad you shared this story, and I’m very sorry for your loss.

    — Ashley    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  36. Thanks for sharing and great writting there mark!

    — Perri Dyer    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  37. Wow Mark,

    Very heavy, but well done.

    There’s no answers to these things in this life. I think Kurt Vonnegut put it best when he said something like,

    “Why you? Why me? Why anybody?”


    — Joe Seeley    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  38. God Bless you Mark. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of our TWA Family on Flight 800. There were so many lives affected by the night of July 17, 1996. The real truth of that evening will eventually be uncovered. Your story made me cry all over again. Bless you
    Marlene Trice
    Retired TWA
    Los Angeles, CA

    — Marlene Trice    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  39. Thanks for telling the story Mark. I remember that whole evening and night when that happened. I was sitting in crew schedule taking calls from family members and friends who lost loved ones. I still remember their voices. Flight 800 will never be forgotten.

    — Heidi Jones    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  40. I too know the sudden shock of losing a loved one. We lost our son 5 years ago in a midnight accident on a back road in Greenwich. Every year we try to celebrate life on his birthday in June, since we know this is what he would do. He is thought of everyday and missed more than once a day. A couple days ago we just received information that the driver of the car in getting out of jail after less than 3 years and going to be placed in a halfway hose. 3 years in exchange of a lifetime isn’t justified.

    — Elaine    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  41. I don’t know how you will ever find peace. My hope is that you will find it in your writing.

    — Paula Daniel    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  42. I cry with and for you when I read and share this story,….
    Love ya like a brother,…..

    See ya,…

    — John Linneman    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  43. Mark,

    I read the story, the one that changed your life forever. I never asked, never felt it appropriate to do so. I only knew you lost someone you loved. Thank you for reaching so deep to share.

    You are in my thoughts.


    — JackieJaech Henmi    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  44. Mark,

    I saw your article online! What an accomplishment; nicely done.

    I’ve read “Losing the Lottery” before on Pushing Leaves—and it’s excellently written, but it is so great to see it printed (well, for me online).

    Today, so many more people will have the opportunity to share in your experience, learn what a talented writer you are, and know what an amazing woman Susanne was and how much you love her.

    I know today is a hard day for you and just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you, as well as everyone else impacted by that tragedy. You’re in my thoughts.


    — Stephanie Shaner    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  45. Subject: Your article

    Beautifully written Mark. Thank you for sharing it and putting it out there for people to see—not only does it reconnect people with that moment in time; it reminds them of the beauty of today and this moment. Quite an accomplishment.

    Love, CSchnee

    — Christine Schnee Epperson    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  46. Dear Mark,

    I’ll be thinking about you today my friend. Marilyn

    — Marilyn Scherrer    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  47. Mark,

    Thank you for sharing this story, and I can only imagine the pain you must feel both in sharing this and in reliving that nightmare.

    You are on my list of the top ten most interesting people I know.


    — Mike    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  48. Thanks for this Mark. You mentioned Heuchert and Kathy Deegan; names that had faded from my memory but now come back vividly. A couple of months ago, ERAU tore down our old Gill Robb Wilson building. I had to go over and watch not knowing how hard it would be to see a place that became the focal point for our early aviation lives being reduced to rubble. I know the place meant nothing to the current generation but apparently it meant more to me than I ever realized. I swear I could see old friends like you and hundreds of others from my 30 years at Riddle still hanging around, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee just waiting to go out and do another phase check or hour of “dual”. It was a strange and tough moment for me that I never thought would happen. When I came to Riddle in 1972 we were the first class to use GRW. The place still smelled of new paint and carpet when I showed up. Now it’s just an open field of dirt.

    — Paul McDuffee    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  49. thanks Mark- seeing Susanne’s name on the bottom of the crew list and having seen you just a few days before so happy… thanks for sharing…

    — Anne Aldrich    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  50. thanks Mark- seeing Susanne’s name on the bottom of the crew list and having seen you just a few days before so happy… thanks for sharing…

    — Alicia Sikes    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  51. Hi Mark,

    I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you today.


    — Meghan M. Mulcahy    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  52. Hi Mark,

    I checked out the publication. Good going! This is a perfect example of a targeted publication. I’m sure you’ll get a good response to it. It’s also a powerful piece.


    — Howard Schwartz    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  53. WOW

    — Gary Frisard    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  54. Just read the article this morning and now I am at the cemetary, as I try to do every year on this day. It is such a peaceful place, perfect for me to escape my hectic life and spend some time with Susanne. That night is still clear as yesterday to me as well, but so is her smile, the one I could picture this morning as I read about the blistex. It is the same smile that she had all the time with you, the one that made me tell her after one month with you that this is the guy you are going to marry! I miss her dearly and I thank you for sharing your precious memories with us,

    Lota of love, mo

    Mo’s iPhone

    — Maureen Bonanno    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  55. Hey Mark.

    It’s been a long time, how are you? I just read your article, thank you. I never wanted to ask you about it. I think about you often when I hear peoples stories of loss. I can only imagine what you went through was worse than most people can expect to experience in a lifetime. I am happy that you have good memories of Susanne. I love the Blistex story!

    You’ve done so much since we last spoke! Congratulations on your novel! That requires a lot of dedication. AA must not be working you very hard!

    Take Care Mark!

    — Beth Bilik Genengels    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  56. Man, that was heavy. i have always wanted to hear the entire story, but afraid to ask for any details. i’m glad that you wrote this and sent it to your friends, i am glad i got to read it. hope things a going well, i am going to be heading that direction in a couple of weeks but i will let you know when. i have a fun-filled weekend planned here. bekah and i are going to the PBR tonight and WICKED tomorrow, sounds fun right?
    talk to you soon

    — Mat Ankney    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  57. Wow,Wow, it seems as if it were yesterday. What a great article with and even better story. We all wish it weren’t true. Always there for you!

    — Mark Boudreau    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  58. Mark,
    When I saw the subject of your email my first reaction was, “Oh crap! Why did he have to remind me of this?”

    Then I remembered why. I felt guilty about my first reaction. I thought about you and your great loss. I thought about all of our friends and their family’s great loss. I thought about the event that tore so many of us apart and brought so many of us together. And I cried… again.

    Thanks for sending your article to Greenwich Time and for sharing your experiences. Even though we will never forget those that we lost, sometimes we still need help remembering.

    Keep safe,

    — Dan Hegeman    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  59. Thanks for the sharing your story with us Mark.

    — Mark Ruth    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  60. Thanks for sharing the link Mark! Do you mind if I post it on my page?

    — Jill Curry    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  61. Mark,

    thanks for sharing your story. Having worked at TWA we also share your pain, and a moment in time for which we will never forget.


    — Ben Barrocas    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  62. Mark,

    touching story…thanks for sharing!


    — Arnie Troy    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  63. How is the recovery? Will be thinking of you this day and as I read your story…..

    — Amy Strahan    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  64. Thanks for sharing, Mark.

    — Kurt Anderson    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  65. Hard to believe it’s been 13 years.

    I read your article, very well written.


    — Andy Brothers    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  66. wow Mark thanks for sharing the story. very touching. Love from the family

    — Michele Coburn    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  67. Thank you for sharing your touching story with us.

    — Cynthia Hartley    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  68. Mark. Thanks for the story. I never had the opportunity to fly with you at TWA, but I think it would have been nice to meet you.

    I’m running to the store to buy the book.

    — Jim    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  69. Thanks for sharing. That’s a very touching story and tribute.

    — Steve Schafer    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  70. Mark, I checked the paper on-line, as I do every morning when I get into work, with my morning coffee in hand of course. As someone who’s petrified of flying, regardless of what statistics may say, I immediately noticed your title, and I just finished reading your article. You wrote it so beautifuly, and I’m fighting to hold back the tears, since I’m surrounded by co-workers :o) I am so sorry for your loss, and I am happy to see that you have decided to live your life to the fullest. Your article touched my heart, thank you for sharing your story with… PS. I’m buying a lottery ticket in your honor!

    — Mrs. Greenwich    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  71. What a beautiful article! I’m so sorry you lost Susanne Jensen.

    — Bob    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  72. I remember doing a case study at ERAU in aircraft accidents and investigations class. My heart went out to the loved ones left behind. A co-worker and friend of yours told us on facebook to read your story. I choked and got a lump in my throat. Very well written. I will look for your book and read that too. I’m sorry for your loss and pain. Susanne was an amazing person in this world. It’s nice that she lives on in your memory when you share it with others. We should all wish to be remembered so dearly when our number is up. Fly safe!

    — Suzanne    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  73. Thanks for finally telling the story Mark. I can remember where I was sitting when that happened. It will never be forgotten.

    — Tim    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  74. I think that in your case, the lottery was life changing as well as life ending. It changed you as well as many others. We all deal with things in very different ways and you have learned to transform the pain into passion for life and achievement of goals. Time does not erase. But it eventually changes all things. I hope that you can one day find true peace from this tragedy.

    — Cleveland Brown    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  75. Thanks for sharing this story. It must have been incredibly painful and my heart goes out to you. I know others that can relate to similar feelings. I am really touched by your candor and openness.

    — Beth    Friday, July 17, 2009    #

  76. fuck!
    life, huh?

    — amanda kc    Sunday, June 14, 2009    #

  77. Dear Mark,

    I don’t think your experience could have been told more eloquently. You’re the only friend I have that has made this big galoot shed a tear. Your writing has helped me shed some of the burden I’ve been feeling from my recent losses. I’m as proud as I can be to be able to call you a friend. Keep up the good work!

    Cheers back at ya, Rob

    — Rob Paulus    Wednesday, June 03, 2009    #

  78. Mark, I have know you for quite awhile my friend, and I write this with tears welling up, sometimes truth is more real than fiction.

    — Gordon Davis    Sunday, May 10, 2009    #

  79. Mark, I also remember it like yesterday! Thank you for sharing your story. Susanne and the others will never be forgotten!

    — Leanne Patterson (Waller)    Thursday, April 30, 2009    #

  80. Thanks for the note Mark.

    I enjoyed your short story- FYI. Actually very good and quite moving.



    — Mike Weiss    Tuesday, April 28, 2009    #

  81. Mark,

    Thank you for sharing this personal experience and loss with us. Your writing and music has been uplifting to you and all of us.

    — Charlie Bailey    Tuesday, April 28, 2009    #

  82. Mark Berry — I have to thank Facebook for throwing us together — we share a name (hee hee, it was my idea to start the “My Name is Mark Berry” group), but I never expected to come across such a story this way. Very well written. The title of your novel “Pushing Leaves Toward the Sun” is fantastic, btw. The bit in your story here about the Blistex made me laugh. That’s the kind of stuff that makes the time we have here on this earth great. I have tons of quotes in my head from folks that are no longer here, like my Grandparents,as well as other living family and friends that make me laugh all the time. Keep it up, MB. Cheers, MB

    — Mark Berry    Tuesday, April 28, 2009    #

  83. This is beautiful and effective writing, Mark! Deep emotion expressed in measured prose. Thank you for sharing it with us.


    — Eileen Gunn    Monday, April 27, 2009    #

  84. Mark, I remember that night like it was yesterday. The pain from your loss will never disappear. Sharing your story is a difficult thing to do. Reading your story and listening to the music is an inspiration to all. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

    — Susan Loeffler    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  85. Mark, you have ironically won the lottery. Of course it would be best for all if the flight had ended routinely in Paris, but fate chose a different path for you. Your talent for expression has blossomed in music and writing in a way you never dreamed, and we are the beneficiaries of your raw honesty and introspection. You have taught all who know you to re-examine our own relationships; a gift rarely given. So you have won the lottery by positively changing more lives than you will ever know. It is my honor to be your student and friend.

    — Hugh Schoelzel    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  86. Hey Mark –

    I just read “Losing The Lottery” today and really enjoyed it. A heartbreaking story that puts life’s odds in a new perspective. I’ll have to check out the song “Susanne” today too.


    — Paul Otteson    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  87. Dear Mark, I still remember the House on Reichert Circle that you were going to buy and the news of that flight going down. I remember calling you and asking if Suzanne was on the flight. I remember the memorial service and the song.. You are both still as fresh in my mind as you were 13 years ago. I am so sorry for all of the pain, loss and sadness that you still endure.


    Jill Bregy

    — Jill Bregy    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  88. It is amazing that you are able to share these “detailed” personal moments of shock in your life. I’ve always wondered the connection of you to Susanne’s flight. Cheers to you for your dialogue.
    I enjoyed your remarks about blistex! She was Really a remarkable person and fit the meaning of true friend to all! ..I miss my “old college roomie” immensely! Thanks for sharing!

    — Karen Tiernan    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  89. Difficult to write, I know, but beautifully said.

    — Barry Schiff    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  90. Mark, we’ve never met and I never had the pleasure of meeting Susanne. But I read this and just wanted to say that though her life was cruelly shorter than it should have been, she was obviously loved more than most people could ever hope for in a long lifetime. And a love like that is worth a thousand winning lottery tickets.

    — Stacey Taylor    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  91. Thank you for sharing that with everybody. I’m sure it was way more difficult for you to write than it was for me to read, but it is necessary.

    — Brian Schiff    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  92. MLB, it may have been 13 years ago, but reading your account of that fateful night literally sent chills down my spine. As for Susanne’s Memorial Service…you did just fine !

    — Libelous Lou Kady    Sunday, April 26, 2009    #

  93. Hi Mark,

    The music is great, clearly speaks to me. And I think it is wonderful that you are finally able to write about your feelings about Susanne’s tragedy. All of us who love you remember how terrible that time was, and we will never forget it. Or forget Susanne. I hope all of this will help you find peace in your life.

    — Claire Berry    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  94. As you expected, I wasn’t able to read this without crying—although I really don’t think anybody could. And I cried not only because it is a such a sad, sad story, but because of the quality in which it’s told. Like all of the writing inspired by your loss that day, the thoughtful, eloquent way it’s composed always breaks my heart—a true testament to your ability to evoke emotion from your readers, and a sign of a talented writer. Although I never knew Susanne, I know she would have been very proud of all that you’ve accomplishments, your writing ability and your discovery of a passion for pursuing this talent. I’m also sure of another thing. Susanne knew she had won the lottery meeting you. xoxo

    — Laura Fleckner    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  95. Hey Mark,

    I read the story like I was standing there beside you. Two of the people you mentioned were frinds of mine as well, Rick and Kathy.
    One thing I have learned in life is that when you lose someone so dear and so loved you will never get over those feeling of loss…but eventually you will learn to make friends with those feeling…and they will turn into very happy memories that you will cherish your entire life.
    I love you my brother, I wish we could be as close as we were at Command…those were my happiest memories.

    — Tony Anger    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  96. Hi Mark,

    First – I want to tell you that I read your work for this week and it moved me to tears. I have a lot of comments for you (in private): I think you’d do well to write a longer piece. Great stuff.

    — Teya King    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  97. i’m speechless— thank you for sharing it with me. how did it make you feel to write about it? i still sometimes have a hard time facing reality about my sister — you’re brave for facing this all head on.

    — Amy Senkel    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  98. I’m sorry but my archaic computer won’t play the music :( One of these days I might get an entire 20 minutes to myself to fix my lap top. For now, it just sits on my countertop taking up space. I’m sure the song is touching as is the story.

    — Rebecca Paese    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  99. himark!

    who is mick james? where can i listen the hole song it s soooo beautiful
    do you have a cd title or something like that?
    wonderful really #by andreas

    — andreas streitberger    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  100. Mark—-

    Very sad, but very touching. I learned alot about you from “Lottery” I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing this.

    Your Friend,


    — William Price    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  101. Hey Mark,

    Congratulations on writing the story – both for the fact that it’s well written and that you took a great step in the grief process.

    — Jennifer Abel    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  102. Mark,

    Thank you for your courage and strength. You are an inspiration to us all. God Bless You.

    — George Fotiadis    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  103. Mark, you write so eloquently. Your story touched my heart. I only met Susanne once with you at JFK, and she was beautiful. July 17, 1996 is a day that all of us from TWA will never forget. Ollie lived with us in N.Y. and spoke with Bill just before leaving for the airport for his last flight. Watching CNN that night was difficult to endure. I can’t imagine the pain you endured with the loss of Susanne, but your story lets us know. Thank You.

    — Lisa Gates    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  104. Hi Mark,
    We first met at the Interline Regatta in the British Virgin Island and later at one of your famous parties in STL.

    I did not know Susanne, but after reading your story and listening to the song, it brought tears to my eyes …I can only immaging how wonderful a person she was and how difficult writing a book about such a tradgety must be. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    God bless…Neil

    ps Keep up the writing …You’re great at it!

    — Neil Perks    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  105. We all miss her Mark.

    — Frank Rogers    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  106. Mark

    I don’t know what to say what you have written is incredible I am so proud of you to have been able to get this out I am in awe, speechless, in tears, and yet laughing with your memories of my dear friend whom I miss more then I could possible say thanks for sharing this with us

    I can’t figure out how to play the song not that I have not listened to the song a million times we are so touched and glad that you have included the song

    Love ya lots


    Anne Gordon Rebmann

    — Anne Gordon Rebmann    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  107. F—- Sully!

    Book Mark,
    Courageous! Thanks for writing sharing your short piece. Demons make for interesting reading. Your writing is improving so you must be spending your money wisely.
    Wise Mark

    — Mark Nebbia    Saturday, April 25, 2009    #

  108. Dear Mark,I was taking care of my dying dad in Germany, when I received THE call, “turn on CNN”, Ollie was on TWA 800.

    — Margret Krick    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  109. Mark-All the time we’ve spent together,I’ve never had the courage to talk to you about it. I’m glad you found the courage to finaly write the story.

    — Rich Conley    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  110. Wow Mark so powerful! I didn’t know the details. It definitely made me cry, I miss Susanne so much, she was one of my best friends!


    — Kathleen St Geme    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  111. I am so happy you were able to express your experience in writing, although I wish you never had to write about this at all. I hope that you find solace in your writing and I look forward to following you as an author for a long, long time.

    — Sharlynn Tuohy    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  112. Dear, Mark, I remember Joe and Cathy too. I know your story and every time I read it or hear it, I cry heavy tears… I wish I knew what to say to those who lost a close one in a tragedy… I’ve been spared the pain, but I feel for those who have felt it.

    — Brigitte Lakah    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  113. Wow, Mark. I’m speechless. Well written. Thanks for sharing it.

    Alice Sanvito    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  114. I have heard this story from Doug, but hearing it from you has put me at a loss for words. I wish I had the chance to know Suzanne. I hope your writing of this story will inspire you to write her story in the future.

    — Sharon Henderson    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  115. I too have had to deal with loss, and know how you feel! Also, I was awaiting IOE on the 747, and knew the entire cockpit with the exception of Mr. Dick Campbell. I will remember that day for the rest of my life! Thanks for sharing Mark!

    — Ted Mandeville    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  116. 17. Mark, You must have come so far to write that story. And I think writing fits you really well. They always say a good writer needs life experiences. I don’t know anyone with so many life experiences that need to be told.

    — Cybele MacHardy    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  117. Mark-Your writing is good and is good for you. Susanne was a very special person. We were privileged to have known her.

    — Aunt Doris    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  118. Mark, I had to call you right after I read it, and was in tears. I remember the 1yr. anniversary, I was pregnant with Jordan and on special assignment at JFK. I was designated to talk to the victim’s loved ones in a room in Hangar 12. The hardest person for me to look at was you, you were also the person that gave me the strength to speak. That horrible day will never be forgotten.

    — Shane Clary    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  119. My mistake was reading this at work. I should have heeded your warning. I won’t even comment on your topic— suffice to say I’m glad you finally felt you could put something in writing. What I really wanted to comment on is your writing—what an eloquent and thoughtful piece. Lovely and moving.

    — Brenda    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  120. I’m speechless, thank you for sharing. Wish I could have met Susanne.

    — Amy Johnson    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  121. Mark, you are right about the tears, I can’t even think about that memorial service or her mother’s words without filling up. But it’s a great piece of writing and I am so glad that you finally got it out. Every wound needs to be drained before it can heal and I hope that this exercise brings the much deserved respite to you. Love from Joan and me.

    — George Schiele    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  122. Mark, Your story is gut-wrenching but gives everyone so much inspiration through your strength at the same time, as does your first book.

    — Patra Beaulieu    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  123. Great job!….should make alot of people realize how many times they HAVE won the lottery!

    — Mark Little    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  124. Mark, I’m glad you finally addressed that “elephant in the room!” I consider that probably the worst day of my life so far, but it can’t even compare to what you must have gone through.

    — Mike Clary    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  125. I knew from your one visit to my party in Prague that you don’t go through life unnoticed. Living overseas for 27 years made me listen carefully to every air accident report with sharpened ears too, though I would never know as many as you did. Must have been a very tough thing to write. Hat’s off to you – thanks for the inspiration – may try to write about some of my own demons.

    — Connie Horton    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  126. Mark lets hope that your shairing this experance will move you closer to winning the next lottery and others to cope with such loses. Keep your eyes and the throttle open!

    — Chris Coburn    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  127. That was good , your righting has advanced so much since you started…..good job on the perseverance

    — Warren Schiele    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  128. LOVE it Mark!!! Absolutely Love It!! I’ve been waiting to hear your story…Thank You for taking the time to post it!! I’ve always thought about writing about flight 1420…Thanks for the inspiration!

    — Mary Taylor    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  129. great writing Mark, hard to hear it….don’t wish it on anyone, but thanx for sharing!

    — Dominique Stewart    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  130. Wow, Mark. I’m glad you shared this with us. It’s such a personal story for you and I’m sure it was THE most difficult thing for you to deal with. I’d heard of “the story” but never in detail. Thank you my man.

    — John Pratt    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  131. Mark, I remember that day so well. When I heard that Susanne was on that flight I felt horrible. I remember how sweet she was when we were at Central. Always nice to everyone, i got the privilege to know her while sitting next to her in Mr Sleath’s math class. Thank you for sharing your story.

    — Tracy Northrop Aquino    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  132. mark, thanks for sharing. i never knew about the connection you had with the flight.

    — Bill Vizzo    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  133. its amazing mark.. thanks for sharing it.

    — C Jummie Ready    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  134. I can’t believe how it still feels like yesterday! Thanks for sharing.

    — Eileen Reap Reilly    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

  135. Wow – had not idea that had happened to you. Thanks for telling your story.

    — Tracy Talbott Sconyers    Friday, April 24, 2009    #

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