Thursday, December 2

9/11: Stewardess Betty Ong’s chilling call from the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center

“What’s going on, Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty are you there? Betty?

Nydia Gonzalez, the American Airlines (AA) chief operating officer that morning of September 11, 2001, knew that something serious had happened on the other side of the line.

For more than 20 minutes he had been talking to Betty Ong, one of the stewardesses on flight AA11 between Boston and Los Angeles, the first of the two that 20 years ago would end up hitting the World Trade Center from New York.

Ong (1956-2001), a San Francisco native of Chinese descent, had been working in the industry for more than 10 years and that day, with his ground call, He was the first person to alert authorities to the hijackings of the planes.

“The cabin is not responding. Someone was stabbed in business class and I think they gassed because we can’t breathe. I do not know. It seems to me that they are kidnapping us ”, he says at the beginning of his communication, about 8:20 AM.

7 minutes before the last contact of the pilot with the control tower had taken place.

By then, air operators had noticed that something was wrong with the plane’s path and at the same time that Ong called they had seen that the plane was drastically off course.

4 minutes later, when the flight attendant was still talking to the ground, the aircraft turned 100 degrees to the south, confirming the suspicion that it had been hijacked and was heading for New York.

Meanwhile, in the telephone conversation, anxiety and bewilderment seemed to clothe themselves.

A woman who initially answered the call and an AA manager who added to the conversation seemed not to know what to do. Over and over again they asked the flight attendant for details like where she was, what her flight number was or what seat she was in.

Ong, with poise, answered and repeated that something very strange was happening on the plane.

Betty Ong
Ong (1956-2001), a San Francisco native of Chinese descent, had been working in the industry for more than 10 years. (Photo: Getty Images)

“My name is Betty Ong. I’m number 3 on flight 11. And the cabin doesn’t answer its phone, someone was stabbed in business class and we can’t breathe in business class ”, he hears her say.

A few minutes later she asked land to wait: someone was heading towards her.

“Someone comes from the class business. Wait a second, they come back… ”.

Communication, however, is not cut off.

The last conversation

Ong speaks again and repeats that they cannot enter the cockpit, that it seems they have taken it and that the pilot has also been stabbed.

He asks those on the ground if they have been able to communicate with the cabin.

“I think the men are up there (in the booth). They may have sneaked in there. No one can call the booth. We can’t even get in, ”he says.

Then she asks, almost desperate: “Is anyone still there?”

They answer yes.

That’s when Nydia Gonzalez joins the call.

He asks Ong again who he was, what the flight was, where he was going … then if they have tried to communicate with someone else.

“No. Someone is calling a doctor and we can’t get a doctor ”, replies Ong.

That was the last part of the recording with the flight attendant’s voice that was played in the United States before the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

But Ong’s call with land continued and the testimony of the minutes that followed came in an even more distressing way: through the voice of Gonzalez, who communicated to the American Airlines emergency line what he was saying for the other phone the stewardess.

The final seconds

When they call the emergency line, Gonzalez has to say the same flight details again and even has to repeat his name and spell his last name before he can continue telling what happens.

The emergency person puts you on hold while you contact air traffic control.

Aircraft trajectory

“I’m still safe, okay, Betty? You are doing a great job, keep calm. ¿Okey? ”, Says Nydia Gonzalez to the stewardess.

Later, through the voice of Gonzalez, we learn that Ong tells him that, apparently, the passengers of the economy class are not clear about what is happening.

That’s when they ask him about the attackers.

“Hi Betty, do you have any information on the gentlemen, the men in the cockpit with the pilots? Were they first class? ”, You hear him ask.

Then Gonzalez repeats what the stewardess replies: “They were sitting in (seats) 2A and 2B.”

Five Islamic extremists were on board, including Mohammad Atta, the leader of the group, who is believed to have taken over the pilot’s position at some point during the hijacking and piloted the plane to the first tower of the World Trade Center.

Shortly before the impact, in the call, the emergency service agent says that the hijackers have turned off the plane’s transponder and that is why they could no longer register the altitude of the aircraft.

Twin Towers
(Photo: Getty)

However, a radar suggests that something is about to happen: “It seems to be descending,” says the man.

It is shortly after this when Nydia asks Betty what is happening, if she is there … But she has no answer.

“It seems that… it seems that we lost it…”, says Gonzalez.

Later, Nydia would tell the last thing she heard from the other side.

Apparently Betty told him: “Pray for us”.

“I think about her every day”

Harry Ong
Harry Ong Jr. with a photo of his sister in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I have a picture of her on my desk. I see her everyday. I think about her every day, ”d Harry Ong Jr., Betty’s older brother, recently told CBS.

As he related, Betty, the youngest of 4 siblings, he loved being a flight attendant. They grew up without much money and their work allowed them to travel to places they only dreamed of as children.

Betty was on flight 11 to earn extra money for an upcoming trip to Hawaii with her sister. As she was not on her normal flight, the 45-year-old woman was assigned to the back of the plane instead of first class and business class, where the hijackers were located. That allowed him to make the ground call.

Ong Jr. recounted that his father waited for Betty to return home until the day of his death in 2007.

“I was always watching TV, the news stations, hoping it was news that Betty was coming home and that she was fine,” he said.

Betty’s family has kept her name and legacy alive, creating a foundation to fund youth and senior programs at a recreation center in San Francisco’s Chinatown, named after the flight attendant.

It may interest you:

“It’s still hard for me to accept it!”: Dominican mother who lost her daughter on 9/11 in one of the Twin Towers

Hispanic American Airlines flight attendant averted terrorist plane attack 20 years ago shortly after the Twin Towers bombing

20 years after the 9/11 attack, NYC is still trying to piece together the ‘puzzle’ of the health effects of thousands of survivors

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