There are heroes that history pays tribute to every year. But there are also anonymous heroes whose bravery saved many lives. This is the case of Neerja Bhanot, a heroine, who due to unfortunate circumstances had to show her bravery, even at the cost of her own life.
Story of a stewardess who was one of many unsung heroes
Neerja Bhanot was an airline flight attendant. During the hijacking of Airline Flight 73, she saved many lives until she was discovered and lost her life. She saved many people during that event.
There are many requirements to be a purser, a certain height, language proficiency, and a culture to match. But also, the care and safety of the passenger is in her hands. Many crews have saved lives in plane crashes thanks to the temperance of those on board.
On September 7, 1963 Neerja came into the world in India to a middle-class family. In 1985 she married as was the custom there, arranged by her parents. But the marriage fails and Neerja returns to live with her parents in Bombay.
After trying her hand at modelling, she applies to work as a purser in an airline company. At the time, it was one of the most prestigious and important airlines in the world. After a few weeks of training in Miami, Neerja boards her first plane as a flight attendant.
Neerja Bhanot was a very special flight attendant
It was on September 5, 1985 when she was to fly from Bombay to New York. The plane was a Boeing 747 Jumbo, called Clipper Empress of the Seas. The flight was numbered 73 and was to make two stopovers, in Karachi, Pakistan and Frankfurt, Germany.
Until the first of the stopovers in Karachi, everything went smoothly. The 19 crew members, including Neerja, and the 360 passengers were ready for the flight. However, the plane was approached by a van with 4 people who boarded the plane.
The 4 hijackers were spotted by Neerja who alerted her colleagues and superiors about the terrorists. It was she herself who offered to act as an interlocutor between the crew and the vandals.
A criminal act that wrote another story
The first thing the hijackers demanded was the passports of all the passengers, to identify the Americans. Neerja was in charge of collecting them, but hid among the seats and the garbage those of American origin (about 43 passports).
When it became dark, after some terrorist detonations to cause fear, Neerja takes the initiative. When the hijacking had been going on for 16 hours, he managed to open one of the doors of the Jumbo, but the slide did not deploy. Because of this, he proceeded to open another of the doors successfully.
As the passengers evacuated the plane, the terrorists fired at them. Neerja tried to shield three children from the bullets, but one of them fatally struck her. Just one day shy of her birthday, Neerja became the heroine of that flight.
In 2016 for being part of the list of unsung heroes, she was honored through a film telling her story. However, as in many other cases, few remember her incredible bravery.
The chilling toll of the hijacking of that aircraft was 21 dead and 120 injured. Without the courageous actions of this purser, it is possible that the outcome would have been much more serious.