Thursday, March 08, 2007
Reflections on a tragedy
We managed to get to the crash site less than eight hours after flight GA 200 crashed, and what a sight it was.
The charred but recognizable form of a jet airliner incongruously lying in a rice paddy-field numbed me for a second when I first saw it. There was a huge crowd of local residents surrounding it, watching as if something might happen. But the wreckage was still, lifeless and obscene. All around debris from the panicked evacuation: empty bottles of water, in flight magazines and the detritus of a flight that ended in sudden carnage. Towards the back of the plane, the two massive jet engines that had been ripped from the wings as the Boeing 737-400 plunged off the end of the runway. And the on the right side of the jet; two enormous wheels from the smashed landing gear.
After an initial pause to simply take in bizarre and awful scene in front of us, we were straight into a frantic rush to make our deadline. There was a report to compile and send, and then the main CNN International Asia programme needed me live impossibly soon. Some how we managed to get everything done in time. But then the rest of the network was soon on the phone: CNN US, CNN Pipeline, CNN Headline News, CNN Wires, CNN Radio, CNN.com, all vying for a tailor-made report.
When the initial onslaught of demands was satisfied, there was time once again to reflect on what had happened. While the chorus of crickets, frogs and insects struck up the nocturnal sound of the tropics, we sat between live shots and simply looked and thought. The randomness of who survived and who died was particularly hard to fathom. Those awful images of people staggering away from the wreck were in all our minds as we packed up and left. We all fly almost every week and know a crash is a remote possibility. But seeing what it’s like up close made us all feel queasy. Several journalists were among the dead. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to think of us on the plane – and those stomach-churning final seconds as the jet slammed off the runway and burst into flames.
When we got back to our hotel that night, we met several members of the international press pack based in Jakarta. Their faces bruised with grief. They knew both the journalists and Australian Embassy staff who died, but somehow were still able to do their job with diligence and professionalism, telling the world of the horror of flight GA 200.
-- From Dan Rivers, CNN International Correspondent
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