Singapore

Angel of SQ006

She was just four months into the job as an SIA stewardess when the crash happened. Just 18, she pulled many passengers to safety. Over the years, The New Paper faithfully featured her painful journey towards recovery

She was hailed a heroine for risking her life as she pulled passengers to safety.

On Oct 31, 2000, the ill-fated Singapore Airlines flight Madam Farzana Abdul Razak was on crashed into construction equipment on a closed runway during take-off from Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Airport and caught fire, killing 83 of the 179 people on board the Los Angeles-bound Boeing 747-400.

Of the 16 cabin crew members who made it out alive, Madam Farzana - who was just four months into her job and only 18 then - was the most badly hurt, suffering severe burns to 45 per cent of her body.

Being seated closest to an exit, she could have escaped first. But she stayed behind in the burning wreckage.

She heard cries for help around her. She pulled passengers out to safety even as the flames were closing in. She faced life-threatening injuries in the process.

After the tragedy, Madam Farzana spent 60 days recuperating in hospitals - first in Taiwan and later in Singapore.

She also had to undergo 11 skin graft operations paid by SIA: nine in Singapore and two in the US.

The physical scars healed after two years, but the emotional ones took a much longer time - especially when the darkest period of her life set in.

Behind the brave face she put on for the public hid a bruised and battered spirit.

She was bitterly consumed with what she had lost - her career, her beauty, her youth and her social life.

DEPRESSION

Madam Farzana, who married Malaysian remisier Don Yazid Mohamed Noor, 48, in 2007 and has a son Syafiq and a stepdaughter Syazwani, recalled in an interview with TNP in 2013: "For the eight to nine years that I was in depression, I felt like a zombie.

"Then I decided that I wanted to take a chance and move on instead of being stuck in one place all the time.

"I realised that life is too short to be miserable. I thought about life after death. I was also pregnant at the time.

"I started becoming unhappy with the way I was thinking and what I was doing. It was all very unhealthy.

"It's very scary to wake up in the morning and not feel like doing anything."

So in 2008, she stopped taking her medication and didn't see psychotherapists or psychiatrists any more.

Madam Farzana also started wearing the tudung (Malay for headscarf) in 2011 for religious reasons, explaining she "had some revelations" that strengthened her faith.

"Before that, I wasn't such a strong believer... I wasn't as committed, but being pregnant had a lot to do with it. I was always concerned that the depression might drive me to do something bad to my child."

Relocating to Kuala Lumpur in 2006 to start life afresh also sped up the healing process.

Madam Farzana insists she has reached a place of peace now and has come to terms with what happened to her in 2000.

She said: "I'm okay right now because I decided that I don't want to be scared any more."

DREAMS

The former Woodlands Secondary School student joined SIA in June 2000 after her O levels.

She said: "Even as a young girl, I dreamt of being a witch because they can fly!

"There's a programme (at SIA) for older women, where they get to work on shorter flights. I would probably have gone into that area.

"It's just the idea of getting to dress up and look beautiful. I also like working with people and serving them."

Madam Farzana told TNP then that she felt "flattered, honoured and embarrassed" that the local media put her on a pedestal for her heroic deeds.

She said: "I don't think what I did deserved so much recognition. It was something anybody would do.

"When placed in a situation like that, you don't just walk away, that's not the first instinct.

"But the prayers and the support (from people) have helped me a lot to move on and not feel so bad about myself."