It was the clear morning of 5 September 1986 and Pan Am Flight 73 landed in Karachi, Pakistan. The flight departed from Mumbai and was supposed to reach at its final destination New York. At the meantime the flight parked on the tarmac at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. It was as usual routine stop over at Karachi airport. Everything was going alright but suddenly four men in a security guard dress entered the plane. They were carrying highly dangerous guns in their hands. Within no time the four men started firing shot at passengers and took control of the plane.
Immediately Neerja rushed to warn the crew members but her ponytail was grabbed by one of the hijackers. However she shouted a hijack code to the cockpit crew. Few crew members quickly escaped leaving the 360 passengers at the risk of hijackers.
She too had an option to save her life but she chose to stay. Hijackers belonged to Libya-backed Abu Nidal Organization. One of the hijacker ordered Neerja to collect the passports of all the passengers. She collected by keeping in mind of the passengers who belonged to America. So that terrorist could not target those passengers.
After 17 hours on board, the hijackers opened the fire on passengers. At the same time Neerja open the emergency exit. She could have fled through the exit but her strong desire to stay there and save 360 lives showed her real braveness and mankind.
Ultimately at the final bloodbath she shielded three small kids from a hail of bullets and gave her life. The terrorists were captured by Pakistani commandos. Neerja was no more but her act of intrepidness saved all the passengers.
After this incident she was known as “Heroine of Hijack”. The Indian government awarded the highest peacetime honor, the Ashok Chakra Award, becoming the youngest recipient in the nation’s history.
She was a real heroine of our Indian history. We are proud of her.
One salute for Neeraj Bahnot!
She will always remain in our memories and billions of heart.