Adventures, Life Abroad, Photos, San Francisco, Travel
Comments 6

On Seeing a Plane Crash at SFO

The American has always been a total aviation buff. Our laptop screen savers are photos of planes. We voluntarily spend time in and around airports to watch the planes coming and going. He can spot them and tell me the make, model, airline and probable destination of the plane. At altitude. While the plane is making a contrail. It’s impressive.

Today was the American’s 30-somethingth birthday. And 30-something aviation buffs (and those also making a short film about SFO) spend their birthday photographing planes at SFO.


On the drive over there, we saw something was not right. There was what looked like fog surrounding the airport. And there were no planes buzzing us as we peaked the San Mateo Bridge. Odd. Within moments, we turned onto on Bayshore. And before us was the remnants of a Boeing 777ER on runway 28L. Alight.

We looked at each other. WHAT THE HELL?!?! Is this real?

The California Highway Patrol and San Mateo County Sheriffs were in the process of closing down the road and the parking lots along Bayshore. The area was a “crime scene”. We parked the car and jumped out. We were in shock — the American didn’t even bother locking the doors. Grabbing the camera, we darted to the other side of the pathway for a better vantage point.

DSC_0036aThe Asiana 777 was broken, having lost its tail at the end of the runway. The tail section came to rest right next to a United 747, awaiting takeoff. I could only imagine the horror of the passengers who had to witness the entire event from their windows: the impact, the fuselage careening out of control, passengers darting everywhere, the flames engulfing what was left. I can only imagine the horror.

DSC_0017aWe, too, watched the harrowing scene unfold in front of us, but from the relative safety of the shoreline. I wanted, needed to know everyone was out of the plane and that they were all okay and accounted for. I wanted the universe to tell me that every single one of them on the plane would be able to collapse into the arms of their loved ones, or to call their families and tell them, “I’m okay, I’m alive”. I felt helpless, but all I could do was watch.

DSC_0037bDSC_0045aWe could see the fire, medical, and other support services arrive. They battled the blaze, helped the survivors, and searched for those potentially missing. The buses ferried the survivors back to the terminals. The fire raged persistently inside the fuselage — we could even see it through the windows.

DSC_0068aDSC_0071aIt was so sad hearing two three people were killed in this crash (and more than a dozen suffering permanent injuries such as severed spinal cords). My heart goes out to those families who won’t be getting that phone call, or the opportunity to squeeze them so tight it hurts.

In time, we will learn what really happened to Asiana flight #214. But in the meantime, I will take this opportunity to radiate love and appreciate those around me. I send my thoughts and love out to those who are dealing with the trauma of this surreal day.


  1. Mary O'Malley says

    Great post, Rebecca (as usual). And amazing, dramatic photos.

  2. I am so sorry you were there to see it! Guh! I am a wreck and I only have been following the story on the news. Great photos — and yes, the lesson is to always tell everyone we love just how much we love them ❤ I talked about the crash a bit on my blog as well today.

  3. Ray says

    Oh my. Now i was able to read it after all. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I do not know if i would feel the same boarding a plane after witnessing something like that up close like you guys did.

  4. Pingback: Introducing our new short film — ‘Neon San Francisco: SFO’ | The Rebecca Project

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