From the Publisher
How do you deal with terrorism? Its a question that jumps out of every days newspaper in fact, its a series of questions. What would you do if you were caught up in a terrorist outrage? How would you deal with the aftermath, and how would you recover in the long term? What should governments do with the terrorists they catch, and what should they do to prevent more terrorism?
Mike Thexton has spent half a lifetime thinking about all these issues after being picked out as "the next man to die" in the hijacking of PA 073 at Karachi in 1986. His new book describes the drama of the event itself and dealing with it afterwards, as well as considering the wider issues. This remarkable book tells the full story for the first time. It takes us on a long emotional journey, starting with the painful loss of a much-loved elder brother and the long-drawn out horror and heroism of the day itself. It goes on to much more as we follow the effects of that day into the lives of those who lived on and their struggle to make sense of it all. After Mikes brother Pete dies tragically descending the summit ridge of one of the worlds highest peaks, Mike feels compelled to travel to Pakistan with another expedition to say goodbye in person. Returning to civilisation (or so he thinks) on 5 September 1986, Mike boards Pan Am flight 073 at Karachi airport at the same time as four Palestinian terrorists from the Abu Nidal organisation. With the aircraft still on the ground, the terrorists grab a flight attendant and seize the plane. In the initial confusion, the flight crew escape and the aircraft becomes a ground-based stronghold.
When negotiators refuse the terrorists demands for a replacement crew, they shoot one passenger and throw his body out of the plane. Needing another hostage preferably an American they gather in passports but the flight attendants bravely conceal US passports in an attempt to save lives. Mikes UK passport is the next best thing and the terrorists call him forward, the next man to die. As Mike walks away to the front of the plane, thin and long-haired after two months in the mountains, a young girl watches him go. For months afterwards, she asks her parents "What happened to the hippy man?" They cannot give her an answer.
For the next twelve hours, under threat of immediate execution, Mike watches while the hijackers negotiate and threaten. He describes in vivid detail the extraordinary range of thoughts and emotions that pass through his mind knowing his life is going to end. After terror and emotional exhaustion, other feelings start to prevail: boredom, resignation, and a state of reflection. And when nothing else is left to him, there is one thing the terrorists cant take away: Mikes British sense of humour refuses to entertain despair, in spite of the apparently inevitable ending.
As tension mounts, the auxiliary power unit running the jumbos electrical systems fails and darkness envelops the terrified passengers. The terrorists scream out cries of jihad and fire automatic weapons straight into the passengers. They throw hand-grenades into the cabins, turning the inside of the aircraft into a scene of carnage. They kill nineteen and injure another hundred.
Amid the panic, the flight attendants perform feats of extraordinary courage as they try to save the passengers and help the survivors to escape onto the wings of the plane where, for the lucky ones, a long jump to safety awaits.
The story of the hijack takes the reader inside a terrifying siege, and challenges everyone to think what they would do how they would avoid going to pieces, how they would keep their self-respect, whether they should resist or obey orders.
About the Author
Mike Thexton left his day-job as an accountant in 1984 in order to write books. None of his fictional
plots have yet matched up to the hijacking of PA 073. As "the man who won the passport raffle", he regularly tells the story to courses for police negotiators, aircrew instructors and soldiers. In between being a professional
hostage, Mike teaches accountants about tax, and works on a series of great unpublished novels.