Life can change in an instant. Just ask the family of Gilbert Estrada. He's the man who burned to death while a crowd of Halloween festival goers cheered. By the time someone realized Estrada's flaming costume wasn't just part of the act, it was too late.
The 51-year-old died at a Los Angeles hospital. And now his family has to suffer the indignity of their loved one's last moments being watched by countless YouTube video surfers.
Yes, that's right, people didn't just cheer as a man died. They grabbed their cellphones and shot blurry video of the fiery blaze.
Not everyone. Some did step in to help, using a jacket to put out the flames on Estrada's sniper costume. They gave the dying man some comfort in his final moments.
But this is the society we've become, isn't it? Shoot video first, ask questions later. Just look at the rape on the Ohio State campus of a few weeks ago, where a girl was sexually assaulted in front of a whole crowd ... a crowd that took photos and Tweeted instead of stepping in to help.
Cops are still examining those videos to determine what exactly happened to Estrada. One theory is that he was lighting a cigarette, and the flammable fabric of his costume went up quickly.
There's an assumption that revelers simply did not realize he was a man in danger. Hopefully it's right. Hopefully people would not purposely leave a man to die.
Still, I wonder if the outcome of this would have been different if people were focused on Estrada rather than on their cellphones. Would they have paid closer attention? Would they have noticed a man in pain?
The gadget puts distance between us and the person (or thing in some cases) we're videoing, and not just in a physical sense. These days you don't even have to look through a viewfinder to capture video the way we did on those old-fashioned cameras. You really can look elsewhere while your cellphone does the work. Because you know you're capturing the action, you can give yourself permission to tune out a bit; there will be plenty of time to watch later.
So what if we didn't grab our cellphones? What if we decided not to video every blessed thing that happens in our lives and just live it? Maybe we'd catch more of what really is going on ... like a man who needs our help.
Speaking of: there's now a Go Fund Me to help Gilbert Estrada's family cover the costs of his funeral.
What is the last thing you took video of with your phone?
Image via Go Fund Me