Peninsula News

Remembering Betty Ong as 9/11 approaches

Thursday, September 08, 2011

San Francisco native Betty Ong was a flight attendant aboard the first plane to hit the World Trade Center in New York. In a way, she was one of the first responders: Ong risked her life by alerting American Airlines that a hijacking was under way.

This September 11 will be no different than any of the others since Ong died. Her sister and brother still plan to visit Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma where the flight attendant was buried.

"It's the tenth anniversary, but that's really a numerical number," Harry Ong said. "Every year, we go through September 11. We honor Betty, go through the memories."

"Our mom lights a candle for her since September 11, and we're very proud of her," said Gloria Ong. "I just miss her."

The 45-year-old flight attendant was on American Airline Flight 11, the first of two that crashed into the World Trade Center. During the hijacking, Ong hid in the back galley, picked up a crew phone and bravely called the airline reservation desk.

"The cockpit is not answering their phone," Ong said during the hijacking. "There's somebody stabbed in business class and we can't breathe...somebody's got mace or something."

The call lasted 23 minutes. Ong spoke calmly, giving important details of the chaotic last moments.

The 9/11 Commission declared Ong a hero.

"I think she would kind of blush and say, no that's not me," said Harry Ong. "That was her job. Her first duty, flying an airplane, (was) to protect the plane and protect the passengers."

Betty Ong grew up in Chinatown and once worked at the family store when it was being robbed.

"Betty simply said, 'we're being robbed dad, but I'm not giving any money to these people,'" Harry Ong said. "And they actually held a gun to her head."

Ong's family said she was not only strong but selfless. They remember one of the last things she said on the phone before the plane hit the tower.

"She asked for prayers, but not only for herself," said Harry Ong. "She said, 'please pray for us all.'"

Nine family members will fly to New York City for the ceremonies.

"I just feel that being in New York will be close to her," said Gloria Ong.

Close to her, but closure is not part of the family's vocabulary.

"Closure is a word that is thrown about so randomly and haphazardly," Harry Ong said. "It's never to be obtained. We never really had a chance to say goodbye to Betty."

"She was just a loving and caring person," Gloria Ong said.

Add to that an American hero.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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september 11th, american airlines, peninsula news, vic lee
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