Neerja Bhanot, the story of the flight attendant who died at the age of 23 to save the passengers of the hijacked plane
Neerja Bhanot's name may not be familiar to many, but her story of courage and sacrifice deserves to be told.
This beautiful girl born in Chandigarh, India, after graduating in 1981, had a brief career as a model and then started working as a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways. She died at the age of 23, in 1986, trying to save the passengers of the plane she was flying from being hijacked by some Pakistani terrorists.
The hijacking lasted about 17 hours, during which the terrorists repeatedly demanded to leave the plane for Cyprus. She was shot while helping passengers escape through the emergency exits. Unfortunately, her selfless gesture cost her her life: the girl was hit from behind by a bullet and her body reached the bottom of the emergency exit lifeless.
The death toll, 22, and the injured, 150, could undoubtedly have been higher if Neerja Bhanot, with her gesture, had not sacrificed herself to allow the people on board to escape. The hijacking ended when a Pakistani military security commando intervened, immobilizing the attackers.
Zayd Hassan Abd al-Latif Safarini, Wadoud Muhammad Hafiz al-Turki, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim and Muhammad Abdullah Khalil Hussain ar-Rahayyal, identified by Pakistani secret services, were sentenced to death, but the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. ; four of them, however, managed to escape from Adiala prison in 2008.
For her bravery, the Government of India posthumously awarded Bhanot the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest award for bravery. She also received numerous awards for her bravery from the United States Government and Pakistan's Tamgha-e-Pakistan, an award given for displaying great human kindness.