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Eerie 9-1-1 Lottery Draws Interest

September 12, 2002

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Officials say it was just a coincidence, but many people found it chilling and maybe suspicious, too: On the anniversary of Sept. 11, the winning numbers in the New York lottery were 9-1-1.

Lottery officials said Thursday that 5,631 people had selected the tragic numbers. They won $500 each.

``The numbers were picked in the standard random fashion using all the same protocols,″ said lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman. ``It’s just the way the numbers came up.″

The 9-1-1 combination was picked so often, it reached the lottery’s set limit for combinations and sold out by Tuesday evening, Hapeman said. On any given day, seven to 10 sets of numbers are ``closed out,″ she said.

For the drawing, which is televised live, the lottery uses numbered balls circulating in a machine. When host Jolanda Vega pushes three levers, three balls pop up randomly. On Wednesday evening, there wasn’t the slightest trace of a quaver in Vega’s voice as she read out: ``Nine ... one ... one.″

There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of the numbers 9-1-1 coming up in the lottery.

``I’m a bit surprised, but I wouldn’t characterize it as bizarre,″ said Christopher M. Rump, a probability expert at the University of Buffalo. ``People tend to read into these things. I’m sure that whatever numbers come up tonight will have some special meaning to someone, somewhere.″

Lottery ticket vendors said some people seemed reluctant to try their luck on the sequence even as they bet on it.

``I think some people were disgusted with the idea of playing that number because it represents a black day in the history of America,″ said Farzad Khosravi.

A similar coincidence occurred Nov. 12 when the numbers 5-8-7 came up in the New Jersey lottery the day American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in New York City.

Hapeman said Wednesday was the first time in more than a year that the 9-1-1 combination had come up in the New York lottery.

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