The images of thick smoke pouring from the plane are dramatic enough, but something else is also startling.
"As a flight attendant I thought, oh my god, I can't believe they have their suitcases!" exclaimed Chris Black, president of the San Francisco Association of Flight Attendants.
She says their first command to panicked passengers is unbuckle your seatbelt, get out, and leave everything behind.
"You would certainly never want to find out that because someone pulled their suitcase out, that another passenger was not able to get out," Black said.
But as you see in photos taken by Asiana passenger Ben Levy, many were reluctant to leave their carry-on bags on the plane. .
"I started, you know, screaming to people, let's go let's go, leave everything behind, we're gonna be okay, get out," Levy said.
It's likely in the chaos people were in shock or their first instinct kicked in. That's why flight attendants say it's key to listen to the safety instructions before the plane takes off.
"Depends, sometimes, you're too sleepy," one passenger said.
Another passenger said, "Do what you're told and you don't grab your bag."
Earlier this week a first responder was asked if there may have been a language barrier for some of the Asiana passengers.
"English was not their first language but go means go, you know, so they got off the plane," San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Crissy Emmons said.
And even though some toted their luggage, all but two safely escaped. The experts say next time, when a plane goes down, passengers might not be so lucky.
"Your suitcase doesn't matter, your cellphone doesn't matter, all your belongings, all of that can be replaced, you can't be," Black said.
And the experts say the faster you exit a plane, the better your odds of surviving.