Face of the day

Ben Innes's 'selfie' with his own hijacker stunned many when it became public.
Ben Innes’s ‘selfie’ with his own hijacker stunned many when it became public.

Today’s face of the day, Ben Innes reacted to imminent death by taking a ‘selfie’ with his would be executioner.

…For Ben Innes and 61 other passengers and crew on board an Egypt Air flight 181 last week, this moment will have come shortly after their aircraft took off on an internal flight from Alexandria to Cairo. As they busied themselves with laptops, or settled back for a snooze, Seif Eldin Mustafa, an apparently unremarkable man in his late fifties, stood up and revealed that he was wearing a suicide belt. Suddenly, passengers were forced to confront a very different reality – one that involved them being blown from the sky, their lives coming to an end in the most violent of circumstances.

…That sheer unexpectedness is what is so wonderfully delightful about Ben Innes’s decision to wander up the aisle and ask for a photo with the man who, as far as he knew, had Western passengers at the top of a kill list. Innes, like everyone else, has spent the last few years being bombarded by the grim images of Isil’s very real torture and murder. He won’t have forgotten, as Mustafa unveiled his explosive harness, that a Russian plane was blown up flying out of Egypt just six months ago. He couldn’t have convinced himself, just days after the attacks in Brussels, that everything was going to be fine.

But when the chips were down, what was his response? To saunter up to the bomber, rope in a crew member to translate, strike up a conversation, get permission for a photo, and grin. Boy, that grin! “I’m not sure why I did it,” he said later. “I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity. I figured if his bomb was real, I’d nothing to lose anyway.”

Ben Innes, I salute you. I hail your impudence, your spirit and your determination not to take life too seriously – even as it appeared about to come to a close.

…”Most people will respond in any way to keep themselves safe,” says Dr Abigael San, a clinical psychologist used to dealing with the consequences of traumatic experiences. “You will have that fight or flight reaction, be more vigilant to signs of danger, and tend to interpret ambiguous signs as dangers. Your body is mobilised, everything is quicker, faster, stronger. Many people can react out of character, more aggressively perhaps.”

She thinks that, as with Innes, when the threat becomes overwhelming, the instinct for self-preservation can give way to something else. “If you think you might be having your last five minutes on earth, you might want to get something done. Be remembered.

– Daily Telegraph UK


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