Many aspire to become engineers, doctors, IAS officers, film stars and so on. Just a limited number of people are service-oriented.
This lesson, 'A Story of Self Sacrifice and Bravery', is about one such selfless, service-minded, brave human who lost her life at the great cost of saving others' lives. Her name was Neerja.
The incident took place on September 5th, 1986. On September \(5th\) morning, the aircraft Flight 73 had just arrived from Mumbai. It was ready to depart from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. It had 360 passengers on board. The plane's final destination was the United States. When the flight was parked at Karachi airport, suddenly, it was hijacked by four heavily armed terrorists. 
Flight hijack
The passengers from the plane are from different countries. It includes Indians, Germans, Americans, and Pakistanis. Among other countries, the terrorists were primarily interested in killing Americans. Having this intention in mind, Neerja was asked to collect the passports of the passengers.
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American passport
Since their prime target was to kill Americans, Neeraja somehow managed to hide and discard many American passports into the garbage chute. In this way, she had saved the lives of \(39\) American passengers out of \(41\).
This flight hijack intends to take this aircraft to Israel and crash it by hitting against a building. Neerja sprung into action as soon as she knew about this unforeseen disaster.
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Terrorist’s plan
At first, she tried to warn the hijacked plane's pilots so that they could save themselves. When the terrorists realised what she had done, they attacked and harmed her. She then conveyed the message in a code to the pilots and warned them.
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Pilots on Pan Am Flight 73
The pilots made their escape through the alternative exit, as per the pilots' instruction during an emergency, so that the terrorists would be without pilots who could be compelled to fly the plane to the terrorists' desired place.
The nightmare on the plane continued for a long time. With each passing hour, the terrorists' frustration and helplessness increased; and their patience decreased with waiting for hours together. Seventeen hours after the hijacking, the plane ran out of fuel. The attackers lost their cool and opened fire on the travellers. Terrorists with explosives, plastic explosive belts, and weapons started to destroy the plane.
Neerja jumped into action at this stage, taking advantage of the terrorists' confusion. She overcame her fears and hesitations by working her way around the room; and helped as many passengers as she could to escape from the dangerous situation. She may have fled because she was familiar with the escape routes, but she didn't. In the face of death, she waited selflessly to assist those around her.
Neerja helped the passengers to escape from the dangerous situation of the plane. At last, when she was about to leave, She found three children left on the flight.
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Kids inside flight
Neerja was shocked to notice those three kids left alone in that dangerous situation. Those three kids required the help of someone to get them saved from the terrorist attack. The selfless, divine being did not care about her life. She took the effort to save the children from the terrorist's attack.
A brave woman Neerja.jpg
Neerja - A brave woman
While rescuing the children from the terrorists, the brave-heart was hit by one of the terrorists' bullets and wounded. The wounds were severe, and Neerja finally died as a result of them. This brave young girl had died in a cruel twist of fate.
While rescuing the children from the terrorists, the brave-heart was hit by one of the terrorists' bullets and wounded. The wounds were severe, and Neerja finally died as a result of them. This brave young girl had died in a cruel twist of fate.
Neerja Bhanot was born on 7 September 1963, in Chandigarh, Punjab, India. Her parents are Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot. Neerja's father was a Mumbai-based journalist. Neerja had two elder brothers named Akhil and Aneesh. She was the third child of her parents and a much-desired daughter after two sons.
Neerja attended Sacred Heart School in Chandigarh until she was in the sixth grade, after which her family got shifted to Mumbai. She went to Bombay Scottish School and graduated from St. Xavier's College there.
Despite Neerja's successful career, her family arranged to get her to marry at \(22\) to a man in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. In March \(1985\), Neerja married him as per the family's advice; but it didn't work out. At this point, her life had taken a turn for the worse. The marriage was destined to fail at some point. Due to dowry pressures, she left her husband after two months of her marriage at the age of \(22\) and returned to her parents.
On the other side, this woman refused to give in to society because she was born with a fighting spirit. She tried to come out of the troubled married life. Despite a bad marriage, she began her modelling career and appeared in advertisements for Binaca toothpaste and other brands.
She then applied for a flight attendant vacancy with Pan Am. It was the country's main and largest international airline around that time. Just \(80\) people were selected out of \(10,000\) applicants, and Neerja was one of them.
She was sent to Miami for 6–8 weeks of training, and after a year, she was sent to London to train as a purser, the most senior cabin manager, based on her success and peer examination. Pursers served as flight managers, dealing with passenger issues, necessary announcements, and handling security. She quickly took up the airway position to become a senior flight purser, which was a significant career accomplishment for a young woman of \(22\).
“Her loyalties to the passengers of the aircraft in distress will forever be a lasting tribute to the finest qualities of the human spirit.”— Ashok Chakra citation.
The above piece of Ashok Chakra citation brings about the Indian government's recognition and respect given on the extraordinary qualities of Neerja's duty, empathy, commitment, and serving spirit etc. Not only the Indian government but Pakistan and the American governments also praised and awarded Neerja for her courage. She was the very first person to receive the Ashok Chakra, India's lifetime achievement honour for bravery in times of peace. In 2004, a postage stamp was also issued in her honour.
Her brother travelled to Washington, DC in \(2005\) to receive the 'Justice for Crimes Award,' which was awarded to her posthumously as part of the 'Annual Crime Rights Week.' She was also awarded the Tamgha-e-Insaniyat. Her great work was given recognition for saving victims during crisis.
Neerja's parents established the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust using funds from Pan Am and insurance money to use the title's Pan Am brand. Every year, the trust gives out two awards: one to a flight crew member from anywhere in the world who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help others. Another award would be given to an Indian woman who overcomes social inequality and supports other women in similar situations. The award includes a sum of INR 1,50,000, a trophy and a citation.
One of the children saved by this noble flight purser during the 1986 hijacking is now a major airline captain. She was one of those people who shone even after death. People will never forget her nobility, bravery, selflessness and integrity. And Mumbai's streets couldn't forget about her. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation named a square after her in the Ghatkopar (East) suburb of Mumbai.