Remembering Neerja: The flight attendant who died protecting others

Remembering Neerja: The flight attendant who died protecting others

-The world remembers a hero today

- A young flight attendant lost her life protecting others in a hijacked plane

- Her home country awarded her the highest honours posthumously

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A flight attendant from India is remembered today after she sacrificed her life at the tender age of 23 to save others. She is credited with saving 260 passengers on board a plane that was hijacked.

Neerja Bhanot of Chandigarh, flight attendant of the PAN AM 73, put her life second after radical Islamic terrorists hijacked the plane in Pakistan. She informed the pilots, who used their escape hatch to run away, and kept both the passengers/remaining crew calm.

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When the terrorists demanded to know who the Americans were on the flight so they could execute them, she hid the passports belonging to Americans under seat cushions. This confused the terrorists and they were unable to determine the national origins of the passengers. They did not execute anyone.

When Pakistani police eventually raided the plane she was able to help evacuate all the passengers as a gunfight ensued. She was one of the last people on board the plane to do a final check and discovered three children who were 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 fatally injured. She was able to get the children to safety before dying from her wounds.

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The heroine was awarded the Ashok Chakra Award by India. This is the highest peacetime gallantry award possible. She was the youngest and first civilian to ever be awarded this honour.

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