Days after an Indonesian plane crash killed at least 22 passengers, people are still asking what prompted Wayan Sukardo to film the wreckage - even as he stumbled away from the burning aircraft with a broken leg. I think I know: He's a professional cameraman - a freelancer working for Australia's Seven News. He and other journalists were on board the 737 when it overshot the runway at the Yogyakarta airport and grinded to a fiery halt in a rice field. That Sukardo managed to crawl out of the crippled airliner with videocamera in hand IS amazing. That he promptly began using it to document the unfathomable isn't.
The resulting footage is disturbing: dazed survivors, screaming jet engines, flames licking the fuselage. It is as close to being there as any student of disaster could ever hope for. It is also valuable. Investigators now have a visual record of the scene just moments after impact. As painful as it may be to watch, survivors can now get an objective view of an event that will no doubt scar their lives forever. And though the taped images will do little to soothe those who lost loved ones in the crash, I'm guessing it's already helped the man who hobbled around on a broken leg to shoot it. Not in a monetary fashion, mind you - but in a way that's almost spiritual. See, those of us who shoulder a lens for a living do so because it's etched in our DNA. It damn sure ain't the money.
Instead, it's an abiding urge to capture the world as it happens. Be it the smoldering metal of a distant jet or the mere flash of giant scissors as they slice through a shopping strip's yellow ribbon, image-gathering is everything to a guy like me. That's why I'm sure Sukardo was glad to have his camera with him as he panned a most unbelievable scene - as it no doubt provided him a familiar way to mentally process the near-impossible. It may not be as noble as a doctor stumbling from the carnage to adminster CPR - but by no means is it something to be ashamed of. Wayan Sukardo should be commended for his quick thinking and innate lenslinging. Hopefully authorities can use the evidence he created to prevent future tragedies.
For now though, remember the victims...