The Hijackings

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Nydia Gonzales, Manager, Southeast Reservations Center, American Airlines, testifying in front of the 9/11 commission on January 27, 2004. From government video of 9/11 commission hearings.
In January of 2004, American Airlines employee Nydia Gonzales testified before the 9/11 Commission. She told the commission about a phone call her office received from Betty Ong, an American Airlines flight attendant, at 8:20 on September 11.

The commission heard a tape recording of a portion of that call, and the call that Nydia Gonzales then made to the American Airlines emergency line. Gonzales told the commissioners that media reports had portrayed Betty Ong as hysterical with fear, but that wasn't true. She said Betty Ong was calm and professional. Gonzales says Betty Ong asked, "Pray for us."

"On Tuesday, September 11, 2001," Gonzales testified, "I was the operations specialist on duty at American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina."

"At approximately 8:20 in the morning … Betty Ong, an American Airlines flight attendant, called our reservations office requesting assistance with a situation on American Airlines Flight 11."

Here is an excerpt from that call:

BETTY ONG: We're ... just left Boston, we're up in the air.

FEMALE VOICE: I know, what ...

BETTY ONG: We're supposed to go to LA and the cockpit's not answering their phone.

MALE VOICE: … I'm sorry, did you say you're the flight attendant?


FEMALE VOICE: Yes, hello.

MALE VOICE: What is your name?

BETTY ONG: Hi, you're going to have to speak up, I can't hear you.

MALE VOICE: Sure. What is your name?

BETTY ONG: Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I'm number 3 on Flight 11.


BETTY ONG: 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.

MALE VOICE: Can you describe the person that you said - someone is what in business class?

BETTY ONG: I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.

BETTY ONG: … our first class … galley flight attendant and our purser has been stabbed. And we can't get into the cockpit, the door won't open. Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Can anybody get up to the cockpit? … I think the guys are up there. They might have gone there - jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside. …

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Hi, who is calling reservations? Is this one of the flight attendants, or who? Who are you, hun?

MALE VOICE: She gave her name as Betty Ong.

BETTY ONG: Yeah, I'm number 3. I'm number 3 on this flight -


MALE VOICE: American Airlines emergency line, please state your emergency.

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Hey, this is Nydia at American Airlines calling. I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11 - the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone's been stabbed.

MALE VOICE: Flight 11? …

NYDIA GONZALEZ: I've got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents. … I can go in on the line and ask the flight attendant questions.

MALE VOICE: Okay ... I'm assuming they've declared an emergency. Let me get ATC on here. Stand by.

NYDIA GONZALEZ: … Okay, I'm still on with security, okay, Betty? You're doing a great job, just stay calm. Okay? … What's going on on your end?

MALE VOICE: We contacted Air Traffic Control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they're moving all the traffic out of this aircraft's way.


MALE VOICE: He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by - they seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Okay. …What's going on, Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty? (Inaudible.) Okay, so we'll like . . . we'll stay open. We, I think we might have lost her.

Betty Ong's plane crashed into Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. The 9/11 Commission wanted to find out whether the military could have done anything to stop that plane, or the other three planes hijacked on September 11.

Continued: part 2

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