In 1986, a Pan Am flight was hijacked and in the midst of this shocking event, a young woman emerged as a heroine. The story of her bravery faded as the years passed.
But, thanks to a chance Facebook post by Misfit History going viral, her heroic actions, that saved many lives, have garnered new attention.
The post reads:
I’d sit down for this one. It’s a doozy.
Neerja Bhanot was the Senior Flight attendant on the infamous Pan Am Flight 73 of 1986. The plane was scheduled to fly from Mumbai to the United States. Before takeoff four hijackers boarded the plane at Karachi airport in Pakistan and held 380 passengers and 13 crew members hostage at gun point in a 17 hour stand off.
When the hijackers demanded the passports of the Americans on board to take those passengers as collateral for a trade, Bhanot hid the passports under seat cushions, flushed them down the toilet and threw them down the trash shoot. Unable to decipher the American passengers from non-American passengers the situation escalated as the hijackers began shooting and detonating explosives.
Bhanot deployed the emergency escape doors and began frantically guiding passengers out of the plane. One of the last to remain, a hijacker grabbed her by her ponytail and shot her point blank while she was shielding three American children from gun fire.
She died at 22 the day before her birthday. She saved the majority of the passengers and the flight crew.
Despite the fact that she saved many Americans, she is probably better known in her native country of India. In 2004, she was the first woman and youngest person to be recognized for bravery when she was given the Ashoka Chakra award–India’s highest civilian award.
In 2006, she was awarded the Special Courage Award by the US Department of Justice, which “recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or who have performed a courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim.”
A movie was also made about her life. Watch the dramatic trailer below.
Many heroes from Pan Am’s ill-fated flight emerged that day over thirty years ago. But as time goes by, interest in their stories wanes, then picks up again.
Now though, thanks to Misfit History, Neerja’s name gets another turn in the spotlight!
Rest in peace Neerja.