What can’t you live without?

What can’t you live without?

I’ve never faced a life-or-death situation like the 300 or so people aboard an Emirates flight this week from India.

Their flight made a spectacular crash-landing on to the tarmac at Dubai International Airport. While the cause remains unclear, Flight EK521’s life-or-death situation did clearly reveal something.

Footage taken by a passenger moments after the crash-landing shows many people trying to get their carry-on luggage.

Cabin crew yell “Jump! Jump! Jump!” to hurry passengers on to the escape slide (because, you know, the plane might actually blow up).

But plenty of passengers delay their escape — to grab their stuff. Click here to watch the EK521 escape.


I know what I would do

Thankfully, all of EK521’s passengers and crew escaped safely. But when I first saw the mobile-phone video of passengers ignoring the crew’s cries of “leave your bags behind”, I got a bit high and mighty.

What are they doing? How could anyone worry about stuff when their own life — and those around them (including, perhaps, family or friends) — is under imminent threat of death?

If that was me, I would be ignoring my overhead baggage, snatching up my family, heading to the escape slide, and thanking God for a miraculous escape…

… Or, would I?


Values revealed

Apart from reminding me about how I can quickly leap to judging others — a terrible habit I’m asking God to help me defeat — the life-or-death situation aboard EK521 stirred something else in me.

What am I unable to live without?

Apparently, some people on EK521 couldn’t live without their hand luggage. I know they would have been panicking and probably weren’t thinking straight. Understandable. But I imagine that being in a life-or-death situation, like they were in, might well reveal what it is that I hold on to the most.


Leave it all behind

I don’t know if you felt this way but seeing how EK521 passengers reacted challenged me to take stock of my own life.

What do I not want to lose? What is most valuable to me? What can’t I live without — even if holding on to it might mean my death?

Before some life-or-death situation forces me to respond, I should know the answer to those questions. Why? Because Jesus stated that anyone who wants to follow Him must give up everything (Luke 14:25-34).

I’m a Christian so, well, that means I want to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Even when it sounds as difficult and kinda impossible as giving up everything else.

But Jesus calls for such extreme measures, as an indication of what it is we are living for.

Jesus was so convinced of the priority for us to all take hold of the new life he offers, he went so far as to tell us to let go of everything else.

Don’t hold on to all that other stuff, as if your life depended upon it.

Instead, Jesus reveals how true life depends upon depending upon him (John 3:16-36).


Ben McEachen


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3 thoughts on “What can’t you live without?”

  1. Warren Bird, Executive Director of UFS

    I am the only person I know who has personally been in such a situation. I don’t recall anyone on our flight delaying their departure when the time came, but there were other issues that could have been serious. I’ll talk about my experience momentarily, but first have an observation about the current discussion.

    I’d like to know if the folk on the Emirates flight went to get their things because they had the wrong priorities, as seems to be assumed by a lot of those expressing an opinion on this, or simply because they had not paid attention to the drill that the cabin attendants go through before take-off on every flight? There’s a lot to take in during that announcement and perhaps they just didn’t notice the very brief statement that says ‘leave all your cabin baggage behind you’. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is nothing to do with your values, but simply your attentiveness!

    Anyway, my experience was that, on 4 July 1992, I was on a 727 taking off from Brisbane to return to Sydney. I was sitting in row 8, so forward of the wings. Almost immediately after take-off there was an almighty ‘bang’ from the back of the plane. My immediate thought was simply that one of the heavy containers with catering in had fallen out and hit the floor. However, when the cabin crew immediately jumped out of their seats and started moving about I knew something else was up. Then when the plane suddenly banked to turn I knew something more serious had happened.

    I was not, however, at any point scared. I have a good friend who is an aeronautical engineer who had told me that planes that are still flying and under the pilot’s control are 99.9% of the time going to land safely, so that’s what I presumed would happen. This enabled me to calmly watch proceedings, even though other passengers were quite frightened.

    To cut to the chase, what had occurred was that the engine in the tail of the plane (the 727’s were the old T-jet style of plan) had basically exploded. Observers from the airport saw a stream of flame longer than the plane trailing behind us. There was debris from the engine on the runway.

    I didn’t know this at the time, but watched as the plane turned a sharp right and went all the way around to land again. We pulled up suddenly and were instructed to evacuate using the slides outside the plane’s exits.

    Yes, I have actually evacuated using those yellow slippery dip slides that you see in the pre-take off demo!

    Don’t take stuff and take off your shoes we were told. And as far as I know, everyone did. Except one lady, who fortunately for me exited after me not in front. She hadn’t taken her shoes off and as she jumped onto the slide her high heel pierced it and it deflated. She was the only injured passenger from this episode as she crashed to the ground without the slide to make for a more dignified exit.

    This episode got a lot of press coverage because there were a lot of sporting journalists on board. There had been a rugby league Test in Brisbane the night before (which is why I had been there) and they were heading back to cover the Saturday games in the competition. They didn’t get any footy to write about, but in true media fashion they wrote a story about this incident that was little like my experience of it. There were a few celebs on board, too. For instance “The Skull” Kerry O’Keefe, who wrote a chapter on this in his book “Turn, Turn, Turn Please”. (He got the sporting event wrong, thinking it was rugby union game. I know that’s wrong because I would never go to a rugby game, especially not one in Brisbane!)

    Anyway, it all ended well. My aeronautical friend guessed what had happened and when I saw the official report years later it was pretty much what he’d said. But I won’t go into that amount of detail here.

    The lesson for all of us to take from this might be about our values. But I think it’s also very important as a reminder, when you fly, to pay attention to the safety demo. It might just come in handy.

  2. Maybe people don’t know what it means to rely on Jesus. The scope or the skeptical imagination tells us that no one can take care of things better than oneself. I’m only trying to put myself in their quick instantaneous thinking. Yes, I would jump without. But possibly that plane didn’t explode. Then I could reclaim what I brought along.

  3. Good points, Warren and Brian. Warren, you’re right to note that Ben’s article could have made more of the attentiveness angle. Given that most of us haven’t been in the situation that Warren also went through, it’s important for us to not leap to judgment of those in that situation (or what can appear like judgment). However, the situation of a plane being evacuated still provides a terrific challenge to any of us about whether we do rely on Jesus or not (as Brian points out).

    Whether we face such a situation, as Warren did, or we never do, the bigger question we all should put to ourselves is not to wonder if we would actually heed the call of evacuation warnings or air steward’s directions. Rather, the bigger question is: do we heed the call of Jesus to value Him (and His heavenly father) above anything else? (Matthew 16:24; John 15)

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