American Airlines flight attendant Betty Ann Ong loved her job. Based at Logan International Airport in Massachusetts, the San Francisco, Calif. native spent 14 years on the job and earned the role of head flight attendant. On the morning of Sept. 11, Ong was one of those aboard hijacked Flight 11 that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Today, Feb. 5, a white rose placed in her name at the 9/11 Memorial marks what would have been her 60th birthday.
Ong was the sort of flight attendant that sometimes skipped her breaks so she could tend to passengers. On overnight flights, she walked the aisles offering blankets. “She made me feel very much at ease and just kind of helped me along when I needed any guidance or suggestions. It was a real joy to work with Betty,” said Janna S., Ong’s coworker.
The morning of Sept. 11, Ong responded with courage and professionalism. Shortly after hijackers overtook the plane, she placed a call to the American Airlines reservation desk and reported, “The cockpit is not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class, and, um, I think there's Mace and we can't breathe. I don't know, I think we are getting hijacked.”
Ong remained on the phone for 23 minutes, communicating the critical information her fellow flight attendants relayed to her until the plane crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m.
When Ong’s family met with 9/11 Memorial Museum curators, they chose to donate items that represent her dedication to her career. They gifted one of her uniforms that she kept hanging in her closet at home, complete with several lapel pins and several photographs. One of the photographs depicts the brave young woman, dressed in her uniform, smiling as she holds a cup of coffee ready to report for work—just as she did on that September morning.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist