How attached can you be to your material possessions when your very life is under threat? Look no further for an answer than the horrifying videos (available on YouTube) of the scenes inside Emirates flight EK521 soon after it crashlanded at Dubai airport on Wednesday. There is utter confusion as the captain announces evacuation of the aircraft, which is normal. What is not normal are the scenes that unfold immediately thereafter.

There is a scramble by passengers to reach for the overhead bins and retrieve their cabin bags even as the crew are screaming their heads off asking people to “jump” and “slide” through the emergency exits. There is even one honourable gentleman who can be heard shouting “Laptop, laptop!” obviously to someone who could reach the overhead compartment! But for the crew shouting and children screaming, you might well imagine that it was a safe landing and not a crash!

The video took me back many years when I was involved in an emergency evacuation after an aborted take-off. There was initial panic as the plane screeched to a sudden halt just seconds before take-off and a kind of white vapour (smoke?) filled the cabin. The crew threw open the emergency exit and I remember jumping off the wing of the Boeing 737, landing on the hard tarmac and running as far away as possible towards the grass abutting the runway. There was no time to even think of retrieving cabin baggage and I don’t recall any passenger attempting to do that.

It is impossible to imagine how passengers in such a situation will look to save their material belongings. Have we become more materialistic over the years? Or is it mob mentality taking over such that one person reaching for his bag prompts everyone else to do the same? Didn’t the passengers realise the plane could catch fire any moment and that they were obstructing those trying to escape? Is the laptop more important than your life? The answers should be obvious.

Senior Associate Editor