Betty Ong

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Betty Ong
Ong’s name is located on Panel N-74 of the National September 11 Memorial’s North Pool, along with those of other passengers of
Flight 11.
Born Betty Ann Ong
(1956-02-05)February 5, 1956
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died September 11, 2001(2001-09-11) (aged 45)
North Tower, World Trade Center
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Plane Crash

Betty Ann Ong (traditional Chinese: 鄧月薇; simplified Chinese: 邓月薇; pinyin: Dèng Yuèwēi; February 5, 1956 – September 11, 2001) was an American flight attendant onboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it was hijacked and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, as part of the September 11 attacks.[1]


Ong was born on February 5, 1956 in San Francisco[2] to Harry Ong, Sr., and Yee-gum Ong. She grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown and graduated from George Washington High School. Her family owned a grocery store on Jackson Street. Ong was the youngest of her surviving siblings: sisters, Cathie Ong Herrera, Gloria Ong Woo and brother Harry Ong.[citation needed] Ong began her career as a flight attendant in 1987 and was later promoted to the position of a purser (a head flight attendant).[citation needed]

At the time of her death, Ong lived in Andover, Massachusetts.[2] On September 11, 2001, Ong assigned herself to Flight 11, so she could return to Los Angeles and go on vacation to Hawaii with her sister. During the hijacking, she used a telephone card to call in to American Airlines' operations/Raleigh reservations center, from the plane's rear galley; identified herself and alerted the supervisor that the aircraft had been hijacked. Along with fellow flight attendant Amy Sweeney, she relayed a report of the seat numbers of three hijackers. During her Airfone call, she reported that none of the crew could contact the cockpit nor open its door; a passenger (Daniel M. Lewin) and two (unnamed, cockpit key-carrying) flight attendants had been stabbed[3] and thought that someone had sprayed Mace or something else in the business class cabin.[4][5] Which (along with the first class cabin) subsequently had to be vacated, by most of the passengers and crew.[citation needed]


On September 21, 2001, some 200 members of the Chinese American community in San Francisco gathered in a small park to pay tribute to Ong. Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, who was present, gave a proclamation honoring the people who died in the tragedy and called September 21 "Betty Ong Day".[6]

Ong is also memorialized on Gold Mountain, a mural dedicated to Chinese contributions to American history on Romolo Place in North Beach, a street where she used to skateboard and play as a child,[7] and a foundation named in her honor. In 2011, the recreation center in San Francisco's Chinatown where she had played as a child was renamed in her honor.[8][9]

Betty Ong was played by Jean Yoon in the miniseries The Path to 9/11. At the National 9/11 Memorial, Ong is memorialized at the North Pool, on Panel N-74.[2]

An extensive clip from Ong's call to headquarters was used at the very beginning of the film 2012 Zero Dark Thirty. The clip was used without attribution, and without the consent of Ong's family. Her family requested that Warner Brothers, the film's U.S. distributors, make a charitable donation in Ong's name, include a credit to Ong and a statement on its website and in home entertainment versions of the film that the Ong family does not endorse the use of torture (which the film depicts being used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden), and acknowledge these things during the 85th Academy Awards ceremony.[10]

Betty Ong's phone call[edit]

The following is an 8 minute and 26 second transcript[11] of the conversation between: Ong, American Airlines' operations/Raleigh reservations, Nydia Gonzalez (Operations Specialist on duty on September 11), and American Airlines' emergency line. It begins with Ong in mid-sentence, her voice was audible during only its first 4 minutes,[12] and her phone call disconnected 37 seconds before the North Tower crash (Sweeney's: 03).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Betty Ong: Unsung Hero of Sept. 11". National Public Radio. September 10, 2004. Retrieved 2009-12-06. Betty Ong, a Chinese-American flight attendant for American Airlines, may have saved untold numbers of lives by telling emergency personnel on the ground what was happening aboard flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001. Her call led to air traffic controllers landing every plane flying over U.S. airspace. ... 
  2. ^ a b c "North Pool: Panel N-74 - Betty Ann Ong". National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Richard Sisk & Monique el-Faizy (July 24, 2004). "Ex-Israeli commando tried to halt unfolding hijacking". NY Daily News. 
  4. ^ "Betty Ong's Call from 9/11 Flight 11". 9/11 Commission. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  5. ^ "9/11 commission hears flight attendant's phone call". CNN. January 27, 2004. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 'The cockpit's not answering,' flight attendant Betty Ong said. 'Somebody's stabbed in business class, and, um, I think there's Mace that we can't breathe. I don't know; I think we are getting hijacked.' Ong, 45, was on board American Airlines Flight 11, the Boeing 767 en route from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, that was flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. 
  6. ^ Nancy Pelosi (September 22, 2004). "In Recognition of the Heroism of Betty Ong". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-12-06. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Betty Ong, a native daughter of San Francisco's Chinatown and a hero for our Nation on September 11, 2001. ... 
  7. ^ Jim Herron Zamora (2007-09-12). "S.F. mural depicting 9/11 flight attendant scarred by taggers". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  8. ^ "The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air". The New York Times. September 7, 2011.
  9. ^ "Betty Ann Ong: 9/11 hero gets lasting tribute". San Francisco Chronicle. October 21, 2011. 
  10. ^ Cieply, Michael (2013-02-23). "9-11 victim's family raises objection to Zero Dark Thirty". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-02-24. The Ong family is also asking that the filmmakers donate to a charitable foundation that was set up in Ms. Ong’s name. Further, they want Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is distributing “Zero Dark Thirty” in the United States, to include a credit for Ms. Ong and a statement on both its Web site and on home entertainment versions of the film making clear that the Ong family does not endorse torture, which is depicted in the film, an account of the search for Osama bin Laden. 
  11. ^ "The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air". The New York Times. September 7, 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  12. ^ "Transcript of Flight Attendant Betty Ong". Gale Global Issues. Reprinted from Terrorism: Essential Primary Sources by K. Lee Lerner (2006). Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  13. ^ As with an anonymous, claimed flight attendant, who called from the same plane; Ong purportedly claimed her presence on both (American Airlines') Flights: 11 and 12.

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