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Pan Am Flight 73 flight attendants and the Pan Am Director for Pakistan

2006 Special Courage Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Pan Am Flight 73 flight attendants and the Pan Am Director for Pakistan | Special Courage Award
Team Members: Viraf Daroga; Nupoor Abrol; Madhvi Bahuguna; Neerja Bhanot; Dilip Bidichandani; Massey Casper; Cecilia Da Silva; Samira Goode; Marian Julien; Astrid Lobo; Lillian Nazareth; Mary Anne Nigli; Sherene Pavan; Nitin Salgaonkar; Ranee Vaswani; Sunshine Vesuwala; Louella Walker
Karachi, Pakistan

The hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 5, 1986, was one of the most violent terrorist acts of the 1980s. Four gunmen boarded the plane while it was on the ground in Karachi. They held the passengers and crew hostage for 16 torturous hours, until a final bloody assault when the hijackers opened fire on the defenseless passengers with automatic weapons and grenades. At least 21 people were killed, including two Americans, and more than 100 others were injured. 

The 16 flight attendants and the Pan Am Director for Pakistan, Viraf Daroga, showed incredible courage throughout the ordeal. Their combined efforts most likely saved the lives of more than 350 people and provided comfort and hope to the hostages during their captivity. 

The flight attendants risked their own lives to protect American citizens by hiding American passports from the hijackers, who were planning to execute Americans in support of their demands. Director Viraf Daroga bravely stood within firing distance of the hijackers to negotiate in an attempt to prevent passenger executions. 

During and immediately after the final deadly assault by the hijackers, the flight attendants heroically saved hundreds of lives by helping to open the emergency exits and evacuate the passengers. Flight attendant Neerja Bhanot lost her life during this act of heroism. Below the plane, Director Daroga assisted the injured passengers. 

For 2 days after the siege, the flight attendants cared for unaccompanied minor passengers until they could be reunited with family members. Director Daroga and several flight attendants courageously testified at the hijackers' trial in Pakistan in the face of death threats. Several of the flight attendants and Director Daroga also provided emotional and powerful testimony during a sentencing proceeding for the lead hijacker held in Washington, D.C., in May 2004. 

Kenneth Wainstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, nominated this group. This nomination was supported by Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, and Gregg Sofer, Director of the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, U.S. Department of Justice.