The viral story of a young hijacking heroine from 33 years ago is a must read

Many of us are too young to remember the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 of 1986, much less any details about it. But thanks to a viral Facebook post from Misfit History, some attention is being shed on an incredible heroine who saved many American lives in the standoff.

The post reads:


I'd sit down for this one. It's a doozy. Neerja Bhanot was the Senior Flight attendant on the infamous Pan Am Flight 73 of 1986. The plane was scheduled to fly from Mumbai to the United States. Before takeoff four hijackers boarded the plane at Karachi airport in Pakistan and held 380 passengers and 13 crew members hostage at gun point in a 17 hour stand off. When the hijackers demanded the passports of the Americans on board to take those passengers as collateral for a trade, Bhanot hid the passports under seat cushions, flushed them down the toilet and threw them down the trash shoot. Unable to decipher the American passengers from non-American passengers the situation escalated as the hijackers began shooting and detonating explosives. Bhanot deployed the emergency escape doors and began frantically guiding passengers out of the plane. One of the last to remain, a hijacker grabbed her by her ponytail and shot her point blank while she was shielding three American children from gun fire. She died at 22 the day before her birthday. She saved the majority of the passengers and the flight crew.

RELATED: This flight attendant had a gut feeling about human trafficking. So he followed it.

Naturally, we shouldn't assume everything we read in a viral Facebook post to be factual, but it doesn't take much research to find that despite a few minor details (e.g., her title was technically "flight purser," not flight attendant) this story is true. And in fact, there's even more that's not included here.

In 2004, Bhanot was the first woman and youngest person to be given the Ashoka Chakra award, the highest civilian honor in India given for bravery. In 2006 she was posthumously awarded the Special Courage Award by the US Department of Justice, an honor which "recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or who have performed a courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim."

According to at least one source, a 7-year-old child she shielded during the attack grew up to become a pilot himself and credits her with saving his life.

A movie was even made about her life in India in 2016, simply titled "Neerja." You can see the trailer for it here, but fair warning—you may want to grab a tissue first:

Neerja www.youtube.com

I may be wrong about this, but I don't think many Americans are aware of Ms. Bhanot and her heroism. I'm in my mid-40s, and I don't think I've ever seen this story. She appears to be better known in India, despite the fact that she helped save scores of American lives before she was killed.

It's also worth pointing out that Bhanot wasn't the only hero from that day. Surviving members of the crew shared their memories of the hijacking with BBC in 2016, and so many deserve credit for their life-saving decisions and actions.

RELATED: How a United Airlines crew handled an autistic 4-yr-old's meltdown is pure human excellence

Many unsung heroes' stories never get told or don't receive the recognition they should. Thank you, Misfit History, for sharing Neerja Bhanot's story so more of us get a chance to learn about it.

True

Temwa Mzumara knows firsthand what it feels like to watch helplessly as a loved one fights to stay alive. In fact, experiencing that level of fear and vulnerability is what inspired her to become a nurse anesthetist. She wanted to be involved in the process of not only keeping critically ill people alive, but offering them peace in the midst of the unknown.

"I want to, in the minutes before taking the patient into surgery, develop a trusting and therapeutic relationship and help instill hope," said Mzumara. Especially now, with Covid restrictions, loved ones are unable to be at the side of a patient heading to surgery which makes the ability to understand and quiet her patients' fears such an important part of what she does.

Temwa | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Dedicated to making a difference in the lives of her patients, Nurse Mzumara is one of the four nurses featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series by CeraVe® that honors nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to their patients and communities.

Keep Reading Show less
Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Nicole Abate, a Registered Medical-Surgical Nurse living in New Mexico, starts her workday around 5:00 a.m. During her 20-minute drive to work, she gets to watch the sun rise over the Sandia Mountains as she sips her coffee.

"It's one of my favorite things to do," said Nurse Abate. "A lot of us need a little calm before the storm."

Nicole | Heroes Behind the Masks Presented by CeraVe youtu.be

In March 2020, after a fairly quiet start to the year, Nurse Abate's unit became the official COVID unit for her hospital. "It went full force after that," she says. Abate was afraid, overwhelmed with uncertainty, never knowing what was next on the wild roller coaster in this new territory, "just when you think ...we know exactly what we're doing, boom, something else hits so you adapt… that's part of nursing too." Abate faced her responsibilities courageously and with grace, as she always does, making life a little better for patients and their families "Thank you for taking care of my father," reads one recent letter from a patient's family. "You were kind, attentive and strong and we are truly grateful."

Keep Reading Show less