Written by: Leslie McPherson, Programs Administrator
September 11, 2001 marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks where nearly 3,000 people were killed in a series of attacks in the United States – a day Americans will never forget. Americans felt a collective trauma and devastation that has forever changed our lives. As we commemorate 9/11, we are reminded of how our nation and community came together in response 20 years ago.
This year, people from all over the world will gather to honor those so brutally and suddenly lost. We remember the victims, survivors, loved ones, and those mourning. We also remember and honor the heroes who gave so much and continue to do so in furtherance of the legacies of September 11, 2001.
One hero Victim Support Services (VSS) would like to remember today is Betty Ann Ong. Betty was a Flight Attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. Flight 11 was the first of four airplanes to become hijacked that morning. During the hijacking, Betty placed a call to American Airlines reservation agents to relay vital information about the situation on board the plane. Betty’s telephone call was the first call and indication that America was under attack, and her call eventually led to the shutdown of all flights nationwide. Under extreme duress, Betty remained calm and professional during her call to authorities. Prior to the crash of the airplane at the North tower, Betty selflessly asked the ground crew to “Pray for us”, and not just for herself. Betty Ann Ong and the flight crew of American Airlines flight 11 were truly professional and heroic for their actions and in the giving of their lives during the attack of America on September 11th, 2001.
In the spring of 2019, VSS had the honor and privilege of having Betty Ann Ong’s sister, Cathie Ong-Herrera, speak at our Voices of Victims luncheon, who courageously honored her brave sister. I recently spoke with Cathie and she shared the following:
“As we approach the 20-year Remembrance of September 11, 2001, it is a time of reflection of my journey. We are experiencing uncertain and challenging times which continues to stir up memories of September 11. 2001 for me. I think of the grief and pain each victim and their families face, which strikes at the very core of their being. Be patient with yourself and kind to those reaching out to help you.”
I think we all can agree with Cathie that we must be patient with ourselves, and kind to those reaching out to help and for help. There is a lot happening in the world right now that is hard to understand, but the one thing that we can hold onto is hope. Remember to always take care of yourself, and if you need someone to talk to, Victim Support Services staff and volunteers are always available to help by calling the statewide hotline at 1.888.288.9221, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. PST, or texting 24/7/365.
In memory of Betty, the Betty Ann Ong Foundation, a not for profit public charity, was established to continue her legacy. The advocacy of the Betty Ann Ong Foundation serves to educate children to the positive benefits of lifelong physical activity and healthy eating habits and to provide opportunities for children to experience the great outdoors so that they can grow to become healthy, strong and productive individuals.
If you are interested in helping the Betty Ann Ong Foundation, contact:
Betty Ann Ong Foundation
P.O. Box 1108
Bakersfield, CA 93302