The release of age-progressed photos of the four terrorists, who hijacked the Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986, has brought back the haunting memory of the horrifying incident. The passengers of the ill-fated flight recounted the experience of the hijacking that killed at least 20 on board, including the flight attendant Neerja Bhanot.
Minakshi Shah, a survivor from the Pan Am Flight 73, recalled the day when she was travelling with her three-year-old son to return to their house in Los Angeles.
"In those days, travelling to the West Coast of the US was not an easy task. The Pan Am flight would have taken us to New York with two stops and we had to catch another connecting flight to LA. It was a journey of over 30 hours. If that wasn't enough, it was my second long journey with my son without my husband's company," Shah, who was 32 years of age at the time of the incident, told International Business Times India.
Of course, it was meant to be an exhausting trip for the mother and son. But what happened on September 5, 1986, continues to haunt them to this day.
"We had boarded an early morning flight from Bombay and reached Karachi. Passengers were boarding the aircraft in Karachi when we heard gunshots. There was mayhem all around and my worst nightmares came true when announcements were made that the plane had been hijacked," Shah added.
The passengers were then left with no other option than following what the Pan Am crew and the terrorists were saying. "All of us were moved to the middle of the plane. And as there was not enough space, we were made to sit in the aisles and exit doors. My son was crying uncontrollably and for the first time, I felt helpless in doing anything," she recalled.
She recalls how the hijackers were often going towards the exit doors with some hostages at gunpoint. "They were also keeping an eye on the aisle to keep the hostages under their control. Late in the evening, we began to hear continuous gunfire inside the plane. And amid the chaos and taking advantage of the darkness, we somehow managed to escape from the aircraft and were lucky to escape with minor bruises," Shah said.
Shah and her son were later transported to a hotel and were helped by the US embassy for their return to LA. Currently, 68-year-old Shah is retired and lives with her husband in Los Angeles. Her son is now 35-years-old and lives with his wife and two kids.