India’s most courageous and the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime award for bravery posthumously, the Ashok Chakra, a true braveheart – Neerja Bhanot was born on September 7, 1963. The courageous Indian flight attendant sacrificed her life while saving the lives of three children on board Pan Am flight 73. During a layover at Karachi, Pakistan, at Jinnah International Airport, a Pan Am flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists, and just two days before her birthday on September 5, 1963, the 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot was shot dead by the terrorists as she tried to save children from bullets.
Check these lesser-known facts about the late Neerja Bhanot on her 59th Birth anniversary:
Until now, her story continues to inspire many people and one of three kids she saved, is now a pilot and dedicates his life to Bhanot. In 2016, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja starrer ‘Neerja’ was released as a tribute to Bhanot which also focuses on her relations with her family along with the act of courage she showed in saving the lives of over 300 passengers onboard along with pilots.
1. Neerja started her career as a model in Bombay (presently Mumbai) and gained success with time.
2. In 1985, Bhanot applied at Pan American World airlines as a flight attendant and went to Miami to get the required training.
3. Bhanot’s flight Pan Am 73 was hijacked at the Jinnah International airport where she helped pilots onboard escape to ground the plane, and hid the passports of passengers to save them from revealing their identities.
4. Just two days before her 23rd birthday, Bhanot breathed her last on September 5, 1963, while saving three kids from getting shot.
5. Neerja did have a choice to escape but she bravely stood for the passengers and fellow cabin crew members.
6. In 1987, Bhanot was posthumously awarded Ashoka Chakra becoming the youngest and the first woman recipient of this award.
7. In 2004, a stamp was released by the Indian Postal Service to commemorate her bravery.
8. To commemorate her exemplary courage, a square in Mumbai is named after her as ‘Neerja Bhanot Chowk’ which was inaugurated by Sonam Kapoor Ahuja.