Their eyes were flicking between flight attendants and the passengers beside them as they strapped themselves in.
“What’s happening?” begged an elderly man.
“Are we going to live?” cried the voice of a parent sitting behind me.
Screams of the flight attendants commanding us to brace ripped through the plane. Then, like a command from the heavens, the pilot’s voice gripped the cabin of the plane – sounding as calm as the sea on a sunny day, instructing us to prepare for a crash landing into the sea. Adrenaline began coursing through my veins as if I had pumped my body full of the most potent class A drugs, but the murmurs of prayers and goodbyes pouring into my right ear were enough to guide my attention away from the sense of impending doom… The little boy on my left was searching the plane, clueless, as he tried to figure out what to do until his mother, leaning down, elbows on her knees and with her hands wrapped around her head, whispered to him to copy her.
“Don’t worry, the plane is built to be safe and we’ll be home soon,” she said, struggling to believe her own words.
There was a shout to be ready at the doors as the water was rushing towards us. A middle-aged man was still stretching for his bag in the overhead rack despite the cries from his family to sit down. After the shrill screaming, begging and pleading the man washed over the man like water off a duck’s back, he got yanked down just seconds before we crashed into the water. Our impact on the water sounded like a bomb exploding right beneath the belly of the plane. I was thrown out of the brace position like a puppy being rammed by a raging bull, launching me towards the ceiling, seatbelt digging into my lap while thrusting me back down, striking my head on my seat, and trapping my arm underneath the person on my right. There was a groan and from my window, I could see that the left wing had completely separated from the plane. There was the sound of all the waterfalls in the world around us as mountains of water dropped from the sky.
Then a strange silence fell upon all of us.
For a second I thought we were sinking and I prepared for the inevitable. However, we weren’t sinking but instead bobbing up and down like a boat. I heard water surging in from a gash on the right side of the plane and seconds later the ice-cold water was drowning my ankles. My instincts threw me into the stampede towards the doors as we battled the water rushing in. By then it was lapping around my calves and I felt a push from the panicking, shrieking refugees behind me. After what felt like an eternity, the passengers near the exits managed to crack open the doors, and 25 of us clambered onto the right wing with some diving straight into the water and beginning a frantic swim away from the plane.
I could hear the lifeboats roaring towards us and helicopters chopping in the air while I was blowing up my lifejacket; the tears of happiness were already falling off my face. My fingers were still blue from the freezing water when I was picked up by a lifeboat then surrounded by lifeguards asking me questions; I could not understand what they were yelling and just thought about how lucky I was to be alive. The sight of a frail old woman beside me shivering made me realise that for some, the fight for life was still not over. It was only then I realised that I was bleeding from a small wound on my arm. We finally reached land and I let out a sigh of relief the second my feet touched the ground.
Since that day, I see the world from a different perspective; every day I look back and remember how close I was to not seeing another sunrise or sunset or day or night.