San Francisco Family Remembers Flight Attendant Who Lost Life in 9/11 Attacks

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This Saturday will mark 20 years since the September 11 terrorist attack in New York. And while firefighters and police officers who died that day were remembered as heroes, people sometimes forget about the efforts of the flight staff on board those doomed flights. 

San Francisco native Betty Ong was a flight attendant on the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center and is credited as the first person to warn authorities that hijackers had taken control of the plane. 

“Memories of 9/11 for a lot of people are getting fainter and fainter,” said her brother Harry Ong.

Nearly 20 years have gone by and while the memories might gradually fade, Harry’s heart will never forget. 

“Here we are today on the 20th anniversary and we don’t think of it as an anniversary because it’s really with us every day,” he said. 

Harry spoke to NBC Bay Area’s Jessica Aguirre 10 years ago about his little sister Betty- an American Airlines stewardess onboard that day. It was Betty who first told authorities we were under attack. 

“We can’t breathe. And I don’t know. I think we’re getting hijacked,” she's heard saying in a call.

Betty’s spirit runs through the halls of the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center, where she used to play as a little girl growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The center was renamed in her honor in 2012. 

“It’s a joy for us to see Betty be remembered and hopefully by the kids who attend here,” said Harry then.

In a year that has been rocked by hate crimes against Asian-Americans, Harry remembers the day when his little sister was working in the family’s market and was held at gunpoint. 

“They took out a gun and pointed it at her and she said, ‘no,’ through their frustration those perps left,” he said, adding that he believes his sister would be taking a stand against Asian hate today - and would be horrified by the rising cases of unruly passengers taking their anger out on flight crews. 

“They’re not just there to serve pretzels and beverages, they’re really hard working they become the eyes of sky outside of the cockpit,” said Harry.

Almost 20 years have passed since that fateful day and you might ask yourself, where are we now? This is Harry’s answer. 

“I hope that we can somehow have the semblance of the post 9/11 days of love for each other and being patriotic which is not happening today and all of its divisiveness.”

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