My condolences to the poor families of the victims of today’s deadly crash at Shoreham Airshow. I know this is totally unrelated to all the other topics on my blog (all China related) but I felt this was an important experience for me, and so here it stays.
This afternoon, a 1950s Hawker Hunter warplane crashed in my hometown, Shoreham-By-Sea, near Brighton killing eleven people and injuring fourteen more. The whole airport was put on lockdown for several hours, and I kept thinking about how I needed to write this down. I’ve never been at the scene of a disaster before, and I won’t forget it in a hurry, so I thought I’d tell it to you.
Clear skies, hot weather, a strong breeze and smiling families promised a fun, light-hearted Shoreham Airshow . Parents, grandparents, small children, teenagers and (naturally) pet dogs reclined in deckchairs and grass chairs eating homemade picnics, ooh-ing, aah-ing, wow-ing and OHMYGOD-ing at the antics of acrobatic warplanes. My mum and our friends idly made light conversation beside me, and I dozed off with my hat over my face in the cosy summer setting, untouched by the loud whir of fighter planes,
Suddenly, like when one car collides with another, but a hundred times worse. there was a cacoophonous CRUNCH. Next, an abrupt silence of the sort where a crowd can feel what has happened, before they really understand what they are feeling, and a chorus of exclamations returned in higher pitch. Countless voices recounted the crash, pointed at the smoke, or quietly embraced each other, and for a few moments everyone was sharing shock and grief.
My mother and I squeezed hands, and then she bravely said ‘I should go over there and help’ (she is a paramedic). As a child would, I tried to persuade her not to leave, but luckily she would not listen to me, and she disappeared into the crowd. Childlishly, I ran after her and tried to follow, but of course it was fruitless.A few minutes later, I decided I would like to leave the airport now and I tried to make my way to the exit. All around I heard useless exchanges which people spoke to cope with the situation ‘It was there, and then it was gone’, ‘How could this happen?’ and ‘I need a drink now.’ But, the exit was totally locked down so that the emergency services could get past easily. Most people stood around passively, but one man argued with the stewards: “I don’t want to go and look, I want to take my nephew home!” he shouted. The stewards yelled at him to “Have some respect!” and it almost came to blows, if the policeman had not told everybody to calm down. It seemed even the officials were in shock.
After that, I felt very depressed and went to sit on my own for a few minutes before going to find our friends.Every conversation I heard was about the crash, recounting stories, speculating causes, and passing on rumours. I found out two cyclists had been killed, and of course there were more to come. It was so tragic for them, and it could have been anyone cycling past. The smoke billowed behind us at the scene for a good ten more minutes, swathing Lancing College in putrid black smoke.
We found my mother in First Aid, helping the victims who had walked away from the accident the entire afternoon. Although we tried to take our minds off it by staring at trucks, gliders and motorbikes, we could not stop discussing the incident for the rest of the day.