(KTSF by Sean Au)
Eleven years after September 11, this date has become a special occasion for those who have lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks to grieve their loss with the rest of the nation.
For the family of Betty Ong, the flight attendant who made the first call to inform authorities that American Airlines flight 11 has been hijacked, the day has become an occasion for family members to get together to remember their little sister.
Betty Ong’s big brother, Harry, comes to the newly renovated and Chinese Recreation Center in Chinatown for a simple prayer session with Reverend Norman Fong and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. After two years of renovation, the center has been reopened and renamed the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center. This is where Betty used to play when she was a little girl.
Harry says for the past few years, the family would come together around September 11 to remember Betty. Last year, Harry and his two sisters with their mother attended the tenth anniversary of the event at the old World Trade Center site in New York. This year, the family gathers at Lake Tahoe, their mother extremely pleased to see her children at one place.
In Chinatown, the renaming of the community center as the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center is an act that moved the Ong family. Harry recalls that the playground was where Betty used to look for coins in the sand.
Mrs Ong has declined to speak to reporters ever since the tragedy happened. Harry reveals that what she misses the most about Betty is her fun-loving outlook. “My mum always missed her when she pops in without saying that she is in town,” says Harry. “She just pops in. She has the house keys, she peeks into the kitchen and surprises my mum saying, ‘I’m home mum, what’s for dinner?’ My mum always misses that.”
Besides being named a national hero by the Federal 911 Commission of Inquiry, Harry learns that Betty Ong’s calm phone call to the American Airlines headquarters during the hijacking has become training material for flight attendants. They are played the phone recording to learn what to do in such an event.
“I was actually quite surprised to hear that,” says Harry. “She (the young flight attendant) graduated from school just about two or three years ago but she knew Betty’s name. At the same time, I told her and all the flight attendants I meet on flights that they are always in our hearts and prayers because I know how it is. It is a tough job.”
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