Betty Ong

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Betty Ong
Native name
Betty Ann Ong

(1956-02-05)February 5, 1956
DiedSeptember 11, 2001(2001-09-11) (aged 45)
Cause of deathTerrorist plane crash
OccupationFlight attendant
Known forNotifying American Airlines staff of Flight 11's hijacking

Betty Ann Ong[1] (traditional Chinese: 鄧月薇; simplified Chinese: 邓月薇; pinyin: Dèng Yuèwēi; February 5, 1956 – September 11, 2001) was an American flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first airplane to become hijacked during the September 11 attacks.[2] Shortly after the hijacking, Ong notified the American Airlines ground crew of the hijacking, staying on the telephone for 25 minutes and relaying vital information that eventually led to the closing of airspace by the FAA for the first time in United States history.[1]


Betty Ann Ong[3] was born on February 5, 1956 in San Francisco, and she was of Cantonese descent.[4][5]

At the time of her death, Ong lived in Andover, Massachusetts.[5] 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 Madeline 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 (Karen Martin and Bobbi Arestegui) flight attendants had been stabbed, and that she thought someone had sprayed Mace in the business class cabin.[6][7][8]


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.

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".[9]

In 2002, the first recipients of the annual Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery were Sweeney and Ong.

In 2011, the recreation center in San Francisco's Chinatown where she had played as a child was renamed in her honor, as the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center.[10][11][12]

Betty Ong's name is included in the 9/11 Memorial, which was dedicated on September 11, 2011.[13]

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.[14]

The Betty Ann Ong Foundation is a non-profit public charity, which "serves to educate children to the positive benefits of lifelong physical activity and healthy eating habits and to provide opportunities for children to experience the great outdoors so that they can grow to become healthy, strong and productive individuals."[13]

Betty Ong was played by Jean Yoon in the miniseries The Path to 9/11, and she is portrayed in a prominent role in Zero Hour S1 E2.

An extensive clip from Ong's call to headquarters was used for the beginning of the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty. The clip was used without attribution, and without the consent of Ong's family. They requested that Warner Brothers, the film's U.S. distributor, make a charitable donation in her name, credit her onscreen, state the Ong family doesn't endorse torture (which the film depicts being used in the manhunt for Osama bin Laden) on its website and in home entertainment versions of the film, and acknowledge these things during the 85th Academy Awards ceremony.[15]

Phone call[edit]

The following is a transcript of the eight-minute and 26-second conversation between Ong, American Airlines' operations/Raleigh reservations, Nydia Gonzalez (Operations Specialist on duty on September 11) and American Airlines' emergency line.[16] It begins with Ong in mid-sentence, her voice audible during only its first four minutes.[17]

Phone conversation

Betty Ong: [I'm] Number 3 in the back. The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and—I think there's mace—that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think we're getting hijacked.

Male Voice: Which flight are you on?

Betty Ong: Flight 12. [Note: This is incorrect. The correct number is Flight 11.]

Operator: And what seat are you in? Ma'am, are you there?

Betty Ong: Yes.

Male Voice: What seat are you in?

Female Voice: Ma'am, what seat are you in?

Betty Ong: We're—just left Boston, we're up in the air.

Female Voice: I know, what—

Betty Ong: We're supposed to go to LA and the cockpit's not answering their phone.

Female Voice: Okay, but what seat are you sitting in? What's the number of your seat?

Betty Ong: Okay, I'm in my jump seat right now.

Female Voice: Okay.

Betty Ong: At 3R.

Female Voice: Okay.

Male Voice: Okay, you're the flight attendant? I'm sorry, did you say you're the flight attendant?

Betty Ong: Hello?

Female Voice: Yes, hello.

Male Voice: What is your name?

Betty Ong: Hi, you're going to have to speak up, I can't hear you.

Male Voice: Sure. What is your name?

Betty Ong: Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I'm number 3 on Flight 11.

Male Voice: Okay.

Betty Ong: And the cockpit is not answering their phone, and there's somebody stabbed in business class, and there's—we can't breathe in business class. Some-body's got mace or something.

Winston Sadler: Can you describe the person that you said—someone is what in business class?

Betty Ong: I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.

Winston Sadler: Certainly.

(At this point, Betty is heard speaking to another flight attendant.)

Betty Ong (Speaking to a flight attendant): They want to know who's being stabbed who. You know?

Unidentified flight attendant: I don't know, but Karen and Bobbi got stabbed.

(Betty's conversation continues)

Betty Ong: Okay. Our number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who, and we can't even get up to business class right now 'cause nobody can breathe. Our number 1 is stabbed right now. And who else is?

Winston Sadler: Okay, and do we—

Betty Ong: And our number 5—our first class passengers are—galley flight attendant and our purser has been stabbed. And we can't get into the cockpit, the door won't open. Hello?

Winston Sadler: Yeah, I'm taking it down. All the information. We're also, you know, of course, recording this. At this point—

Nydia Gonzalez: This is Operations. What flight number are we talking about?

Winston Sadler: Flight 12.

Nydia Gonzalez: Flight 12? Okay. I'm getting—

Betty Ong: No. We're on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.

Male Voice: It's Flight 11, I'm sorry Nydia.

Betty Ong: Boston to Los Angeles.

Male Voice: Yes.

Betty Ong: Our number 1 has been stabbed and our 5 has been stabbed. Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Okay. We can't even get into the cockpit. We don't know who's up there.

Male Voice: Well, if they were shrewd they would keep the door closed and—

Betty Ong: I'm sorry?

Male Voice: Would they not maintain a sterile cockpit?

Betty Ong: I think the guys are up there. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside. Is anybody still there?

Male Voice: Yes, we're still here.

Female Voice: Okay.

Betty Ong: I'm staying on the line as well.

Male Voice: Okay.

Nydia Gonzalez: Hi, who is calling reservations? Is this one of the flight attendants, or who? Who are you, hon?

Male Voice: She gave her name as Betty Ong.

Betty Ong: Yeah, I'm number 3. I'm number 3 on this flight, and we're the first—

Nydia Gonzalez: You're number 3 on this flight?

Betty Ong: Yes and I have—

Nydia Gonzalez: And this is Flight 11? From where to where?

Betty Ong: Flight 11.

Nydia Gonzalez: Have you guys called anyone else?

Betty Ong: No. Somebody's calling medical and we can't get a doc—

With that, the portion of the tape played at the commission hearing ended. Then, the commission heard a recording of a second phone call, the call Nydia Gonzales placed to American Airlines' emergency line. Gonzales was still on the phone with Betty Ong as well. She relayed what Ong was telling her to the emergency operator.

Male Voice: American Airlines emergency line, please state your emergency.

Nydia Gonzalez: Hey, this is Nydia at American Airlines calling. I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11—the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone's been stabbed.

Male Voice: Flight 11?

Nydia Gonzalez: Yep. They can't get into the cockpit is what I'm hearing.

Male Voice: Okay. Who is this I'm talking to?

Nydia Gonzalez: Excuse me. This is Nydia, American Airlines at the Raleigh Reservation Center. I'm the operations specialist on duty.

Male Voice: And I'm sorry, what was your name again?

Nydia Gonzalez: Nydia.

Male Voice: Nydia. And what's your last name?

Nydia Gonzalez: Gonzalez— G-o-n-z-a-l-e-z.

Male Voice: (Inaudible)—Raleigh Reservations. Okay, now when you—

Nydia Gonzalez: I've got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents.

Male Voice: Okay. And she's calling how?

Nydia Gonzalez: Through reservations. I can go in on the line and ask the flight attendant questions.

Male Voice: Okay. I'm assuming they've declared an emergency. Let me get ATC on here. Stand by.

Nydia Gonzalez: Have you guys gotten any contact with anybody? Okay, I'm still on with security, okay, Betty? You're doing a great job, just stay calm. Okay? We are, absolutely.

Male Voice: Okay, we're contacting the flight crew now and we're, we're also contacting ATC.

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay. It seems like the passengers in coach might not be aware of what's going on right now.

Male Voice: These two passengers were from first class?

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay, hold on. Hey Betty, do you know any information as far as the gents—the men that are in the cockpit with the pilots, were they from first class? They were sitting in 2A and B.

Male Voice: Okay.

Nydia Gonzalez: They are in the cockpit with the pilots.

Male Voice: Who's helping them, is there a doctor on board?

Nydia Gonzalez: Is there a doctor on board, Betty, that's assisting you guys? You don't have any doctors on board. Okay. So you've gotten all the first class passengers out of first class?

Male Voice: Have they taken anyone out of first class?

Nydia Gonzalez: Yeah, she's just saying that they have. They're in coach. What's going on, honey? Okay, the aircraft is erratic again. Flying very erratically. She did say that all the first class passengers have been moved back to coach, so the first class cabin is empty. What's going on your end?

Male Voice: We contacted Air Traffic Control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking, so they're moving all the traffic out of this aircraft's way.

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.

Male Voice: He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by—they seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.

Male Voice: Okay, Nydia?

Nydia Gonzalez: Yes dear, I'm here.

Male Voice: Okay, I have a dispatcher currently taking the current fuel on board.

Nydia Gonzalez: Uh, huh.

Male Voice: And we're going to run some profiles.

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.

Male Voice: To see exactly what his endurance is.

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.

Male Voice: Did she—

Nydia Gonzalez: She doesn't have any idea who the other passenger might be in first. Apparently they might have sprayed something so it's—they're having a hard time breathing or getting in that area.

(Plane struck World Trade Center)

Nydia Gonzalez: What's going on, Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty? (Inaudible.)

Nydia Gonzalez: Okay, so we'll like—we'll stay open. We—I think we might have lost her.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Betty Ann Ong Foundation".
  2. ^ "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. ...
  3. ^ "以鄧命名康樂中心 意義非凡". Sing Tao Daily. 2013-11-26. Archived from the original on 2017-07-22. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 在三藩市華埠出生長大的鄧月薇(Betty Ann Ong)[...]
  4. ^ "Pelosi: In Recognition of the Heroism of Betty Ong". 10 October 2010. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010.
  5. ^ a b "North Pool: Panel N-74 - Betty Ann Ong". National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  6. ^ Richard Sisk & Monique el-Faizy (July 24, 2004). "Ex-Israeli commando tried to halt unfolding hijacking". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on August 19, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Betty Ong's Call from 9/11 Flight 11". 9/11 Commission. Archived from the original on 2009-11-08. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ Nancy Pelosi (September 22, 2004). "In Recognition of the Heroism of Betty Ong". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on October 10, 2010. 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. ...
  10. ^ AsianWeek (2001-09-11). "Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center Opens in Chinatown". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  11. ^ "The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air". The New York Times. September 7, 2011.
  12. ^ "Betty Ann Ong: 9/11 hero gets lasting tribute". San Francisco Chronicle. October 21, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Betty Ann Ong Foundation". Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  14. ^ Jim Herron Zamora (2007-09-12). "S.F. mural depicting 9/11 flight attendant scarred by taggers". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air". The New York Times. September 7, 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  17. ^ "Transcript of Flight Attendant Betty Ong". Gale Global Issues. Reprinted from Terrorism: Essential Primary Sources by K. Lee Lerner (2006); retrieved September 9, 2013.[dead link]

External links[edit]