“Heros don’t seek accolades or the spotlight with glitz and glamour; Rather, they perform their humanitarian works quietly, unselfishly without a moment’s hesitation.”….Ladyjustice
Betty Ong may not be remembered by name, but she will live in infamy for her acts of heroism beyond all measure. Betty was the first and primary communicator of the initial phases of the worst terrorist act in modern history. Betty had aspirations to become a flight attendant as a child. However, she far surpassed any career goals with her humanitarian nature. Betty’s flight on fateful September 11, 2001 was Flight 11 originating from Boston, Massachusetts bound for Los Angeles, California. In her 14 year career, she achieved the level of “purser” is the chief flight attendant whose duties include supervising other staff, completing detailed reports ensuring compliance with all safety procedures and all passengers safe and comfortable.
Respect and hospitality by the host is the cornerstone of Chinese culture which appeared to serve Betty well. She was the youngest of a family of five children from San Francisco, California, born in February, 1956. She truly was a people person with a special fondness for seniors and children. Her sister wrote that she was a tireless worker , always going the extra mile, driving into the city to have lunch with seniors and buying trinkets from her travels for children.
Her amazing professionalism and courage her fire along with colleague Amy Sweeney during her 23 minute call to reservation agents at the Raleigh-Durham airport was the beginning of events that provided key information and ultimately saved untolled additional lives!
“Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I’m number 3 on Flight 11. 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. Somebody’s got mace or something.”
She and Amy continued talking to different entities and related with calmness and some of the crew had been murdered and hijackers had infiltrated the cockpit. She shared information on the men, including their seat numbers and what they looked like. Their acts provided the “window of opportunity by 20 minutes to learn the names addresses and other vital information on three of the five hijackers prior to the crash into the North Tower.
With the personal terror put aside, Betty and Amy made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of their passengers. Had they had time to think, to grieve, we can only image what they contemplated and shared in their final moments.
On February 5, 2017, Betty would have celebrated her 61st birthday.
Tributes to Betty Ong-
2002 Recipient of the “Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery” (named for Betty’s co-worker, Amy) from the State of Massachusetts; http://www.mass.gov/eopss/crime-prev-personal-sfty/masweeney-award-for-civilian-bravery.html
2011 The Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center , serving the community for nearly 60 years in San Francisco and a facility in which she played as a child; http://sfrecpark.org/destination/betty-ong-rec-center/;
Movies – Canadian Actress Jean Yoon depicts the role of Betty in the mini-series the Path to 9-11; and, according to Wikipedia sed a lengthy clip of Betty’s phone call without attribution and family permission to the 2012 movie, “Zero,Dark, Dirty,” apolitical action thriller which endorsed torture in the search for osama bin Laden. Her family subsequently requested a charitable donation from Warner Brothers in her name, give credit on-screen and reiterate that they do not endorse torture during the 85th Academy Awards;
The Betty Ann Ong Foundation, a 501c 3 non-profit, http://www.bettyong.org/index.htm headed by her sister, Cathie Ong-Herrera was created in ~ 2006 whose goal is dedicated to childhood obesity .Betty was a staunch believer that a positive attitude breeds self-confidence and self-esteem, which she acquired at an early age. They endorse Camp Pocono Trails, one of the only weight loss camps accredited by the American Camp association. http://www.newimagecamp.com/index.html
Finally, an ironic twist on a beautiful tribute to Betty gone horribly wrong! A September 12, 2007 San Francisco article described this tribute below –
Betty Ong is one of several Chinatown natives depicted in a 200-foot-long, 7-foot-tall mural dedicated to Chinese contributions to American history entitled Titled “Gold Mountain.” the mural also includes educators and nurses, Edsel Ford Fong, a waiter made famous by the late Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, and Larry Ching, the “Chinese Frank Sinatra,” who was a longtime entertainer at Forbidden City.
Painted by artist Ann Sherry in 1994 on the side of an apartment building on Romolo Place, the mural has been damaged by taggers numerous times. Each time, Sherry, the building’s owners and community volunteers have stepped up to perform touchups – and twice to restore the mural completely.”
As of 2004, Mural Artist who created this work of art stated,
“I’m done with them. That’s why the mural is painted over,” Sherry said. She said that during the 2004 restoration, which took almost a year, she worked on the mural six days a week for almost a year and was only compensated for transportation and lunch. “It was an absolute nightmare,” she said. “All they could pay me was coming out of their poor little pockets, so I accepted it because at the time I could afford to take a lot of time to do this. … So I basically just did the work, and they let it go to hell again. (It is now re-painted entirely in “institutional beige”)
How very sad that Betty’s memory and others would be repeatedly defaced by criminals yet again! In my opinion, taggers who “perform their art” on pre-existing beauty, serve no good purpose and perpetuate disrespect and violence, qualities which were abhorrent to “our true shero”, Betty.
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