The Story of Neerja Bhanot
Neerja Bhanot was a 22 year old Indian Flight attendant who gave up her life while saving the lives of the passengers onboard the Pan Am flight 73.
Pan Am Flight 73 Hijack
It was the morning of September 5, 1986. The aircraft, Pan Am Flight 73 with 360 passengers on board had just arrived from Mumbai and was ready to depart Jinnah International Airport in Karachi for its destination- the United States. Unfortunately the flight was hijacked by four heavily armed terrorists while it was parked at Karachi airport.
Neerja Bhanot was the senior most crew member on board the flight. The terrorists boarded the flight dressed as security guards and Neerja was the one to alert the cockpit crew who managed to escape through an overhead hatch in the cockpit.
The terrorists started asking for passports of crew members and Neerja realised that their primary targets were the Americans on board. She was instructed by the terrorists to collect the passports of all passengers. Neerja managed to hide their passports and discard them down the rubbish chute. With her help at least 39 American passengers were save out of 41.
The terrorists held the passengers hostage for 17 long hours and after that they started to open fire on them. Neerja helped the passengers escape through the emergency door exit but in an attempt to save three children from the bullets being fired, Neerja lost her life.
Ashok Chakra Award
Neerja Bhanot is a true example of bravery. She became the first woman recipient of the Ashok Chakra award, India’s highest civil bravery award.
Neerja Bhanot Family
Neerja Bhanot was the only girl of Rama and Harish Bhanot. She had two elder brothers. After Neerja’s untimely death, her family set up the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust with the Insurance money they received. Through this, every year, they present two awards of 1,50,000 each- one to an Indian woman who faces social injustice but overcomes it and another to an airline crew member who acts beyond the call of duty.
Neerja The Movie
Recently a biopic movie named Neerja, starring Sonam Kapoor in the lead has been made on her life.
Neerja Bhanot Facts
- Before joining Pan Am Neerja worked as a model in various advertisements.
- Within a year of becoming a cabin crew with Pan Am, Neerja was promoted to the senior most cabin manager.
- On the night of the flight Neerja’s mother tried to convince her to take leave as she had been working the entire day, but Neerja never took her work lightly.