Upfront I’ll say that I (obviously) don’t have any special insight, but just my reflections to share. I saw a mention of a 777 crashing at SFO in my Facebook feed as I was about to go to sleep in Taipei a couple of nights ago, which turned out to be literally less than five minutes after the incident occurred. Suffice to say I didn’t sleep a minute that night, and was glued to Twitter and TV (as painful as the coverage is to watch) till 7AM the next morning.
I’ve gotta say it’s amazing how quickly footage and the facts are unfolding, thanks in no small part to social media and that virtually everyone has a mobile picture/video studio thanks to smart phones. There’s now even a video of the crash landing which has surfaced, and frankly it’s even worse than I expected:
Incredibly disturbing to watch (perhaps only slightly less so than the cargo 747 that crashed in Afghanistan a couple of months ago), and at the same time it’s almost comforting and a testament to the safety of the industry that something like that could happen and almost everyone got out alive.
It’s also amazing how quickly the facts are unfolding. We already know that there were no mechanical failures and that seven seconds before impact one of the pilots made a call to increase speed, four seconds before impact the stick shaker sounded, and 1.5 seconds before impact the pilot called for a go around.
Anyway, my point with this post isn’t to report the news but to reflect. The accident hasn’t left my mind for a second. I’ve played out just about every scenario of “could you imagine what it would have been like to…” And that’s not limited to being a pilot, being a flight attendant, or being a passenger on Asiana 214. But I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be the family of a passenger waiting for them at the airport, only to see the plane in flames. Or what it’s like to be an Asiana ground staff member that has to explain to passengers why the outbound flight is canceled. Or for that matter to be a passenger that was booked on the return flight to Incheon. Or to be a passenger on the United 747 that sat on the tarmac at the end of runway 28L for about two hours watching the whole situation unfold.
I could go on and on. There are so many people I feel horribly for, whether they were involved directly or not.
On one hand this really makes me reflect on our hobby as such, and how horribly things can go wrong. At the same time in the grand scheme of things I realize that I’m not spending all day reflecting about how horribly things are going in other parts of the world, like Egypt, where 30 people died in protests yesterday.
One of the only movies that’ll make me emotional is Hotel Rwanda, and there’s an exchange in there that I think sums it up well, to some degree:
Paul Rusesabagina: I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.
Jack: Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?
Paul Rusesabagina: How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?
Jack: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.
And while it sucks, it’s true. We’re impacted a lot more by what’s near and dear to our hearts than something potentially worse that we have little connection to.
Anyway, my thoughts are still with everyone involved and will be for a long time. I’m flying to San Francisco today and am dreading it — I’m not sure if I can stomach seeing my favorite aircraft burned to a crisp on the runway.