Neerja was the Senior Flight Purser on a Pan Am flight which was hijacked at Karachi airport by 4 heavily armed hijackers. The pilot and the flight crew fled from the cockpit.

Setting aside all concern for her personal safety, Neerja Bhanot identified herself to the terrorists as the crew member in-charge. A long, tension – filled ordeal started. Yet, Neerja was a perfect picture of calm, confident leadership. She comforted the passengers, especially the elderly and small children.

In an amazing act of courage and compassion for her fellow human beings, she hid the passports of the Americans as the hijackers wanted to execute Americans. After 17 hours, the hijackers opened fire and set off explosives. Acting quickly, Neerja opened the emergency door and helped a number of passengers escape. She gave her own life while shielding 3 children from a hail of bullets. Neerja was recognised internationally as “the heroine of the hijack” and is the youngest recipient of the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest civilian award for bravery.

This message is for Neerja from California, USA based 15 year old Krithi San.

My name is Krithi and I am 15 years old. I live in San Diego, California, USA and as a part of a school project I wrote a letter to Neerja Bhanot as she is my role model and inspiration.

Dear Neerja Bhanot,

Today, I would like to just talk to you as a friend and not as anyone else. Only a friend.

Thank you for showing me what courage is? I know that courage isn’t something that can be easily done. It is a characteristic that is developed in a certain situation.

For me courage and self-respect is very important as well as you. I love how you had the thought to save other people in a life threatening situation.

Courage can be expressed by anyone and at any age. At a very young age, you did not care whether you were going to live or not, all you cared about was to save the people that were with you in the plane. I did not know what to say to this. Words can simply not describe you.

Courage does not mean to not be afraid of anything, but it means have the fear and conquering it.

There is no human being out in the world who does not have a fear. Yes. Everyone has a fear or more than one fear, but it’s our choice whether we want to let our fear conquer our life or let us conquer fear and live a happy life.

You have demonstrated something wonderful that is very rare in the world today. It is a human norm is to usually run for our lives and save ourselves but you conquered and pushed away that thought in your mind and stood forward for everyone.

There might be many people who do not agree or like what you did but, there are people who admire you and your personality and I am and will always be one of those people who admire you.

If I were to wish for anything it would be to always be someone who is related to you such as a friend or family/well-wisher and let you know that I am always the one who believes and always loves my Neerja and you are always a great person to me! Also, we both have a similar personality.

We both love caring about other people and making them feel like there is a person who cares about and for them in this world. I also just love being myself and doing what I love to do just like you. This is how we all should be.

What’s the point of being happy if you don’t love doing what you love to do? I know that I’m only 15 years old and that I cannot follow myself blindly as I’m still a kid, but I know that I can keep loving the things I love to life a good life.

In school, we were assigned a project called The Hall of Fame. It is a project where we had to choose a person that was not on our classroom Hall of Fame wall. I already know that you were in the hall of fame for the Flight Attendants category but I only wanted to do you and no one else, so I chose a different category and try to persuade my whole class and other people to put in that category. That category was called Human Rights. With so much dedication and hard work, I stood up for you and educated people who knew nothing about you.

I got a 97% on this presentation but that did not matter. What mattered was did I give my 100% best or not? I did, so I was happy. We also had the option to do the presentation with partners but, I chose not do it. I didn’t choose it not because it is teamwork but because I want to be the only Neerja Bhanot follower lecturing people about my inspiration.

I know that if you were there, then you would have definitely been proud of me. But the truth is, I am proud of you. I am not like everyone else, who forgot about their person after the project was over, and I will always remember Neerja no matter what. I know your body may not be with us, but you definitely are alive in those who admire and love you. Neerja, you are my hero and inspiration and you will always stay that way!!

Yours Truly,
Krithi San