A Voice From The Sky

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. 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."


BETTY ONG: [I'm] Number 3 in the back. The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and - I think there's mace - that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think we're getting hijacked.

MALE VOICE: Which flight are you on?

BETTY ONG: Flight 12.

OPERATOR: And what seat are you in? Ma'am, are you there?


MALE VOICE: What seat are you in?

FEMALE VOICE: Ma'am, what seat are you in?

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.

FEMALE VOICE: Okay, but what seat are you sitting in? What's the number of your seat?

BETTY ONG: Okay, I'm in my jump seat right now.




MALE VOICE: Okay, you're the flight attendant? 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: Okay. Our number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who, and we can't even get up to business class right now 'cause nobody can breathe. Our number 1 is stabbed right now. And who else is?

MALE VOICE: Okay, and do we -

BETTY ONG: and our number 5 - our first class passengers are - galley flight attendant and our purser has been stabbed. And we can't get into the cockpit, the door won't open. Hello?

MALE VOICE: Yeah, I'm taking it down. All the information. We're also, you know, of course, recording this. At this point -

NYDIA GONZALES: This is Operations. What flight number are we talking about?

MALE VOICE: Flight 12.

FEMALE VOICE: Flight 12? Okay. I'm getting -

BETTY ONG: No. We're on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.

MALE VOICE: It's Flight 11, I'm sorry Nydia.

BETTY ONG: Boston to Los Angeles.


BETTY ONG: Our number 1 has been stabbed and our 5 has been stabbed. Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Okay. We can't even get into the cockpit. We don't know who's up there.

MALE VOICE: Well, if they were shrewd they would keep the door closed and -

BETTY ONG: I'm sorry?

MALE VOICE: Would they not maintain a sterile cockpit?

BETTY ONG: 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. Is anybody still there?

MALE VOICE: Yes, we're still here.


BETTY ONG: I'm staying on the line as well.


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

MALE VOICE: She gave her name as Betty Ong.

BETTY ONG: Yeah, I'm number 3. I'm number 3 on this flight, and we're the first -

NYDIA GONZALEZ: You're number 3 on this flight?

BETTY ONG: Yes and I have -

NYDIA GONZALEZ: And this is Flight 11? From where to where?

BETTY ONG: Flight 11.

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Have you guys called anyone else?

BETTY ONG: No. Somebody's calling medical and we can't get a doc -

With that, the portion of the tape played at the commission hearing ended. Then, the commission heard a recording of a second phone call, the call Nydia Gonzales placed to American Airlines' emergency line. Gonzales was still on the phone with Betty Ong as well. She relayed what Ong was telling her to the emergency operator.

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: Yep. They can't get into the cockpit is what I'm hearing.

MALE VOICE: Okay. Who is this I'm talking to?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Excuse me. This is Nydia, American Airlines at the Raleigh Reservation Center. I'm the operations specialist on duty.

MALE VOICE: And I'm sorry, what was your name again?


MALE VOICE: Nydia. And what's your last name?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Gonzalez -- G-o-n-z-a-l-e-z.

MALE VOICE: (Inaudible) -- Raleigh Reservations. Okay, now when you -

NYDIA GONZALEZ: I've got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents.

MALE VOICE: Okay. And she's calling how?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Through reservations. 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: Have you guys gotten any contact with anybody? Okay, I'm still on with security, okay, Betty? You're doing a great job, just stay calm. Okay? We are, absolutely.

MALE VOICE: Okay, we're contacting the flight crew now and we're, we're also contacting ATC.

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Okay. It seems like the passengers in coach might not be aware of what's going right now.

MALE VOICE: These two passengers were from first class?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Okay, hold on. Hey Betty, do you know any information as far as the gents - the men that are in the cockpit with the pilots, were they from first class? They were sitting in 2A and B.


NYDIA GONZALEZ: They are in the cockpit with the pilots.

MALE VOICE: Who's helping them, is there a doctor on board?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Is there a doctor on board, Betty, that's assisting you guys? You don't have any doctors on board. Okay. So you've gotten all the first class passengers out of first class?

MALE VOICE: Have they taken anyone out of first class?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Yeah, she's just saying that they have. They're in coach. What's going on, honey? Okay, the aircraft is erratic again. Flying very erratically. She did say that all the first class passengers have been moved back to coach, so the first class cabin is empty. What's going 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.


MALE VOICE: Okay, Nydia?

NYDIA GONZALEZ: Yes dear, I'm here.

MALE VOICE: Okay, I have a dispatcher currently taking the current fuel on board.


MALE VOICE: And we're going to run some profiles.


MALE VOICE: To see exactly what his endurance is.


MALE VOICE: Did she -

NYDIA GONZALEZ: She doesn't have any idea who the other passenger might be in first. Apparently they might have spread something so it's -- they're having a hard time breathing or getting in that area.

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 struck Tower I of the World Trade Center at 8:46 on September 11.

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