The flight attendant who sacrificed herself to save the passengers from the terrorists

A career that lasted a few months but saved hundreds of lives

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Nirja Banot was to become a heroine at a relatively young age. The beautiful India air hostess sacrificed to save passengers from the militants hijackers and her act shocked the world.

She was born on September 7, 1963 in her hometown of Cadigar India and grew up in Mumbai. There he went to school and graduated from St. Xavier's College.

From a young age she stood out for her impressive and polite presentation. Her big expressive eyes, her long black hair and her sweet smile left no one unmoved.

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At the age of just 16, the editors of a magazine, enchanted by her beauty, approached her and offered her to work as a model. Photographs followed and he participated in many commercials. But it seems that she had other dreams for her life. He wanted to fly in the ethers and travel around the world.

So, in 1985, at the age of 21, she applied for the position of flight attendant in the American airline Pan Am. The company was looking for flight attendants of Indian descent. Banot moved to Miami for a while, where she underwent special training.

This was her new career that lasted a few months but saved hundreds of lives….

Nirja Banot did not give up modeling, she combined it as much as possible with the profession of flight attendant.

In the same year he got married and moved to Qatar. However, her husband pressured her and treated her badly, so she soon returned to her family.

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It would make its maiden flight on 5 September 1986. Not that he could have imagined that this would be the last. A routine flight from Mumbai to New York turned into a real nightmare for the nearly 400 passengers on the plane.

Banot was in charge of the cockpit on Pan Am 073 flight when the plane made a stopover in Karachi. Pakistan four armed men, members of a Palestinian organization, seized the aircraft. Thanks to her incredible bravery, they did not achieve their goal and there were, in the end, only a few victims. She was one of them.

The hijacking

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The flight was about to depart from Pakistan's Karachi airport to the United States when hijackers suddenly entered the aircraft at the last minute. The plane was carrying 361 passengers and 19 crew members. The terrorists demanded to fly to Cyprus and release some members of their Palestinian organization.

Nirja has been brave from the first moment. As soon as she realized the terrorist attack, she hurried to inform the pilots, putting her life in danger. The pilots immediately left the aircraft from the roof, as a result of which the plane never flew.

The terrorists had targeted American citizens. When Nirja was asked to collect all the passports, she hid what belonged to the American citizens so that they would not be endangered.

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On the one hand, the clever handling of Nirja and on the other hand, the time gained by the airport officials resulted in 17 hours being spent from the entry of the hijackers on the aircraft. Then the latter started firing and throwing grenades.

For 17 whole hours the hijackers were inside the plane trying to calm the passengers - hostages who were terrified.

Nirja opened one of the four doors and helped people out. Although she could leave the plane and be saved, she stayed until the last passenger got off.

While helping three unaccompanied children to escape, she came under fire from one of the terrorists and lost her life. A total of 10 passengers were killed and more than 100 were injured. The rest were rescued.

The terrorists were arrested and sentenced to death, while their sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. If the 22-year-old flight attendant heroine had not opened the exit door, the victims would have been much more.

Nirja's funeral took place the day after the events, on September 6, 1986. "We were waiting for Nirja to return on September 7 for her birthday. Eventually, they brought her to us in a coffin ", were the words of her father…

Banot was honored as a heroine by the Government of India and the Government of the United States, and her life has been a source of inspiration to thousands of people around the world. The surviving passengers spoke several times about the self-sacrifice of the 22-year-old flight attendant and her story moved people.

In February 2016, the film "Neerja" was released, which tells the story of September 5, 1986. Nirja was played by Indian actress Sonam Kapoor and the emotionally charged film received generally positive reviews. In India the reviews were more positive for both the film and the protagonist.

The film's budget was close to $ 3 million and raised over $ 20 million in cinemas.