Yesterday would have been her 52nd birthday, but PAN AM Flight Attendant Neerja Bhanot of Chandigarh, India died at 23 being a hero. She is credited with saving the lives of 360 passengers onboard PAN AM 73. When radical Islamic terrorists hijacked her A/C in Karachi, Pakistan she informed the pilots (who used their escape hatch to runaway) and kept both the passengers/remaining crew calm. When the terrorists demanded to know who the Americans were on the flight so they could execute them she gathered all the passports and hid the ones belonging to Americans under seat cushions. The terrorists confused and unable to determine the national origins of the passengers didn’t execute anyone. When Pakistani police raided the plane she was able to nearly singlehandedly evacuate all the passengers as the firefight ensued. She being one of the last people on board did a last check and found three children still hiding. As she led the children to safety the surviving terrorists spotted the children and opened fire on them. Neerja jumped in the way of the bullets and was mortally wounded. She was able to evac the children to safety before dying from her wounds.
Neerja was awarded the Ashok Chakra Award by India, the highest peacetime gallantry award possible. She was the youngest and first civilian to ever be awarded this honor.-
Shetal Patel -Because of this posting I got to see the photo of the angel that saved my life and my dad’s. I was on this flight. Ms. Bhanot was courageous, had she not hid those passports we would have been executed.
Jeanie Houston Watts – Unfortunately, some of the details are incorrect. It was flight 73, not 47 and someone was executed. A newly naturalized American Citizen who was just 29 years old was taken to the front and shot in the head in front of witnesses. His body was then thrown from the plane onto the tarmack. The hijackers later would open fire inside of the plane as well as attempt to detonate multiple grenades with the goal of killing everyone on board. There were 380 total passengers and crew……20 were killed that day. The 5 hijackers were convicted and sentenced to death but had their sentences commuted later to life in prison. As of 2008 all five had been released. The “ringleader” was captured by the US and is serving a 106 year sentence in Indiana. The other four have never been recaptured by the US and are on the FBI Most Wanted list. As for the awards from the US she actually received three…..The Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award, U.S.A., The Justice for Crimes Award, United States Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia in 2005 and The Special Courage award, US Govt in 2006-