June 3, 2023

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September 11: Flight attendant Box Ong’s cold call from the first plane that crashed into the Twin Towers | The world

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

Nydia Gonzalez, Chief Operating Officer of American Airlines (AA) that morning , I know something serious happened on the other side of the line.

See: What do we know about how the September 11 terrorist attacks were organized

For more than 20 minutes, Betty Ong, one of the hosts of the first plane to strike the World Trade Center in New York, was talking on the ground. He was the first person to warn authorities about the hijacking.

He was talking for more than 20 minutes Box Ong, One of the flight attendants on the AA11 flight between Boston and Los Angeles, both of which struck the World Trade Center in New York 20 years ago.

See | 9/11: Hours of terror that changed the world forever

Ong (1956-2001), of San Francisco descent of Chinese descent, had been in the business for more than 10 years, with his ground call that day. He was the first person to warn authorities about the hijacking.

“Cabin did not respond. Someone in business class was stabbed. I think they let out gas because we could not breathe. I do not know. It seems to me that they are kidnapping us“He says at the beginning of his communication, at about 8:20 in the morning.

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Seven minutes ago, the pilot made his last contact with the control tower.

See | 20 years after 9/11: Victims’ calls from the Twin Towers

By then, the flight operators had noticed it Something went wrong with the plane They saw the plane go fast at the same time as Ong called.

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Four minutes later, while the flight attendant was talking on the ground, the plane turned 100 degrees to the south, confirming the suspicion that it had been hijacked and headed for New York.

Meanwhile, in the phone conversation, anxiety and bewilderment seemed to dress themselves up.

See | The story behind the portrait of a man who fell from one of the Twin Towers after the 9/11 attacks

One woman who initially answered the call and the AA manager who was included in the conversation did not know what to do. Again and again they asked the flight attendant for details such as where she was, what her flight number was or where she was.

Ong, calmly, replied that something very strange was happening on the plane.

Ong (1956-2001), of San Francisco descent of Chinese descent, has been in the business for over 10 years. (Getty Images)

“My name is Box Ong. On the plane I was number 3. and Booth did not answer his phone and was stabbed by someone in business class And we can’t breathe in business class, ”she says.

After a few minutes she asked to wait on the ground: someone was walking towards her.

“Someone is coming from class Business. Wait a minute, they’ll be back … “.

However, the communication was not disconnected.

See | Iconic photo of a woman covered in dust who “lost control” after the 9/11 Twin Towers attack

Last conversation

Ong speaks again, repeatedly telling them they can’t get into the cockpit, it looks like they took it and the pilot was stabbed too.

He asks if those on the floor were able to communicate with the cabin.

“I think the men are there (in the booth). They may be lurking there. No one can call the booth. We can’t enter,” he says.

Then she asks, almost in despair: “Is there anyone else?”

They answer yes.

See | 2 scientific reasons for the collapse of the Twin Towers after the impact of the planes on September 11, 2001

That’s when Nidia joins Gonzalez on the call.

He goes back to Ong and asks who he is, what the plane is, where he is going … and then asks if they have tried to communicate with anyone else.

“No. Someone calls a doctor, we can not get a doctor“, Ong replies.

It was the last part of the recording with the voice of an air attendant played in the United States before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

But Ong’s call with the ground continued and the testimony of the next few minutes came even more tragically: through the voice of Gonzalez, who contacted the American Airlines emergency line, he said what he was saying to the other phone.

See | September 11 attacks: How America’s worst terrorist attack was planned and executed

Final seconds

When they call the emergency line, Gonzalez must repeat the same flight details, repeat his name and pronounce his last name before saying what is happening.

The emergency person stops you when you contact the air traffic controller.

“I’m still safe, right, Betty?” You are doing a great job, keep calm. .OK? ”, Nidia Gonzalez tells the maid.

Then, through the voice of Gonzalez, we know that Ong told him that apparently, it was not clear what was going on with the passengers of the economy class.

That’s when he asks about those who attacked him.

Hi Box, Do you have any information about humans, humans in the cockpit with pilots? Are they first class? “, You hear what he’s saying.

See | I escaped 9/11 because I came to work in the Twin Towers. Sometimes I feel guilty. “

Gonzalez’s maid responds: “They (seats) were seated at 2A and 2B”.

Five Islamist militants were on board, including Mohammed Atta, the leader of a group believed to have captured the pilot’s position at one point during the hijacking and directed the plane to the first tower of the World Trade Center.

Shortly before the impact, on the call, the emergency service agent says the hijackers had switched off the plane’s transponder and that is why the plane’s height could no longer be recorded.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

However, a radar says something is going to happen: “It looks like it’s going down,” the man says.

After a while, when Nidia asks Petty what’s going on, if she is … but she has no answer.

“Looks like we lost it …”, says Gonzalez.

Then, Nidia will say the last thing she heard from the other side.

Apparently Betty told him: “Pray for us”.

“I think about her every day”

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

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

As he said, Betty, the youngest of four siblings, He wanted to be an airline assistant. They grew up without much money and their work allowed them to travel to places they had only dreamed of as children.

Betty was on Flight 11 to earn extra money for her upcoming trip to Hawaii with her sister. Since she was not on the normal plane, the 45-year-old woman was assigned to the back of the plane instead of the first class and business class where the hijackers were. It allowed him to call the floor.

Ong Jr. recalled that his father waited for Betty to return home until the day his father died in 2007.

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

The box family has kept his name and heritage alive by building a foundation to fund youth and senior projects at an entertainment center in Chinatown, San Francisco, named after the pilot ‘s assistant.


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