“And the wind died…”

Note: this post was originally written some time back with the name of the client, but at his request I removed it to protect his privacy.
From time to time I share some of the deeply personal stories that have enriched me as I ply my trade as a storyteller. This one dates back almost twelve years, and involves a client I wish to leave unnamed, and his brush with Dodi Fayed and Princess Di. My conversation occurred in the fall of 1997, as we were working on the intro to a video I was shooting in his office that day.

My client was in an unusually reflective mood, and while my crew was adjusting lights he seemed to enjoy the opportunity to ruminate. He said, “You know, it’s amazing how the smallest of events can produce the largest consequences.” I nodded, not sure where he was going as he spoke to me and the agency producer. “We just got back from spending a few weeks in the French Riviera, and for several days  we became aware that Dodi and I were on their yacht in the same port where we were vacationing. We could see them on their sailboat. It was a beautiful time for them to be enjoying the Mediterranean sea.”

“And then the wind died.” My client repeated it again, “That’s all it was. The wind just died.” He went on, as if underlining each word for emphasis: “And so Friday morning we saw the helicopter leave their yacht. They flew to Paris for dinner.”

That evening, of course, they ate dinner and then died en route to their quarters for the night. They had planned to leave for London in the morning.

“All of us are so vulnerable,” my client reflected: “We imagine that we are in control; we set our minds to do what we choose, when we want; but the reality is we can be thwarted simply because the wind changes….”

All of us were overcome by this reverie. The recent tragedy was still on our minds, but this was a new perspective: the whole final chapter of one of the world’s most celebrated people was just a lark, a sudden impulsive choice much like any of us might make to drop in on a friend or catch a movie on the spur of the moment. And it all came about because the weather changed, and the original plan of sailing throughout the weekend triggered another chain of options.

Here’s the Wikipedia account of her death, which corroborates several of the details I recollected from my client’s story.

Do any of you have stories about insignificant events that grow large in their ultimate impact?

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