Kristina Stapchuck saw the dramatic scene unfold from her seat on a plane on the airport's tarmac. Soon after Flight 214 touched down, "it looked like the tires slipped a little bit and it rocked back," she told CNN.
Parts of the plane began to break off as it rocked and then began to spin.
"It all happened so suddenly," Stapchuck told CNN.
'Serious moment to give thanks'
Well after the crash, debris extended through a large swath of the airport -- right up the water's edge.
But the recovery will go well beyond that.
There were 16 crew members on the flight, in addition to 291 passengers, according to Asiana Airlines. The manifest included 141 Chinese passengers, 77 South Koreans and 61 Americans.
Carnes said that 49 of those treated at area hospitals were in "serious" condition.
Fifty-two of them are at San Francisco General Hospital, including five patients in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said. Another 45 have been treated at a Stanford University hospital, some of them suffering from "life-threatening injuries," said Dr. David Spain, the chief of trauma.
"Many are critically injured," Lee stated Saturday evening.
The crisis Saturday had trickle-down effects as well. At one point, flights destined for San Francisco International Airport were diverted to airports in Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Los Angeles, said Francis Zamora of San Francisco's emergency management department.
By 3:30 p.m., though, two of the San Francisco airport's four runways were open -- though the other two were still closed over eight hours later.
The spotlight shone, too, on Asiana Airlines and the plane it received in 2006.
One of South Korea's two major airlines, the other being Korean Air, it flies to 23 other countries. Many of the 25-year-old airline's flight go out of Incheon International Airport, which is the largest airport in South Korea and considered among the busiest in the world.
What happened to the flight is one part of the story. But there are 307 more personal stories out there -- of people who were moments from wrapping up a long flight, but instead endured a nightmare.
Some who weren't on board also have stories to tell -- whether they saw the horror from an aircraft, tried to track down family members, or counted their blessings in other ways.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and author of the book "Lean In," is in the latter category. She was supposed to be on Flight 214, but switched to a United flight, arriving about 20 minutes before the Asiana flight crashed.
"Serious moment to give thanks," she wrote on her own Facebook page.