On the morning of September 5, 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 landed in Karachi. It had arrived from Mumbai and would have departed for Frankfurt and then to New York City. The flight was carrying, among members of other nationalities, Indians, Germans, Americans, and Pakistanis. Unfortunately, the flight was hijacked while it was parked on the tarmac at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Neerja Bhanot is a name of a hero in this story. She bravely gave up her life in order to help save the lives of 340 passengers aboard Pan Am Flight 73.
Terrorists had boarded the plane, and wanted to use American passengers as leverage. Through Bhanot’s quick action the majority of the passengers were able to escape unharmed.
When the terrorists had boarded her flight in Karachi, they grabbed Neerja, who was at the entrance to welcome the passengers, by her hair. Sensing danger, she conveyed the “hijack code” over the intercom to the flight’s cockpit crew. Soon, the cockpit crew escaped through the cockpit’s emergency hatch.
For 17 hours, Neerja and other members of the crew did their best to take care of the passengers and calm them down. She protected the Americans on board, who were targeted by the hijackers by hiding their passports. From a total of 41 American passengers, 2 were killed.
The hijackers, who were part of the Abu Nidal Organization had intended on flying the plane to Israel and crashing it into a building.
The hijackers lost patience after a tense 17 hours and opened fire. Neerja opened the emergency door and flung open the inflatable chute, but instead of escaping she helped usher out passengers. She was shot and killed by shielding three children from bullet fire.
As her father remembers her, “Neerja was a very sensitive, deeply affectionate and an extremely decent person who believed in sharing with her people all her joys but not the jolts. She had well defined principles and there was little room for compromise in that area.”
Listen to Neerja Bhanot’s last flight announcement before Pan Am Flight 73 got hijacked.
The film called Neerja based on the bravery of Pan Am flight attendant Neerja Bhanot was released on February 19, 2016. The Neerja trailer is sure to bring a tear to your eye.