11 September 2006

We Remember It All...Especially AA Flight 11

Today is a holy, solemn day of rememberance. I will not waste any time in dedicating this to all who were effected, as we all were. I was finishing up a wonderful trip to Egypt with co-workers, you know where you were...it makes no matter, we are the survivors and the world we knew before this fateful day five years ago is long gone.

I am also an ex-employee of American Airlines, and I worked in a reservations call center for a few years. It was an American Airlines flight, Flight 11, that was the first one hijacked and the first to hit the World Trade Center. On that flight was a heroine of great, great calm and courage...Betty Ong...an AA flight attendant. It is because of her that AA, the authorities, and eventually the world learned what happened in those terrible skies. It is to her that this entry today is dedicated.

It is also dedicated to two of the best reservations representatives AA ever has employed, Nydia Gonzalez and "John". (I use "John" because, even five years later, I have yet to see his full name ever revealed publicly, so it should certainly not be for me to break that trend.) These two wonderful people, professionals at their best at that time, got the initial call from Betty about the hijacking of Flight 11. And these two people I worked with everyday, in fact I spoke to "John" before I left for Egypt and he asked to see all of my pictures upon my return. When I came back, after being stranded for a few stressful and harrowing days in Cairo and London, he was not the same. And neither was Nydia. None of us were. But we had survived...as numb to the whole experience as we were afterwards. Betty Ong, whom Nydia and "John" tried so desperately to help, did not.

Few people actually watched C-SPAN when the 9/11 investigations took place, but I did. And in that investigation, that courageous phone call that Betty Ong placed to my dedicated co-workers was heard. From Betty Ong's side, they are the calls of a concerned and dedicated and relatively calm professional. From Nydia and "John's" side, they are the calls of professionals hundreds of miles away, scrambling to decipher what was going on and trying to help in any way possible...and being utterly unable to do so. What happened that day was nothing that anyone had ever been prepared for...there existed no manual on how to stop time, how to stop the inevitable, how to stop the fear.

The following are the recordings played at the 9/11 investigational hearings (with a very small amount edited out, which is acknowledged at the beginning)...listen to them and read the transcript that is included. The first "male voice/operator" is "John". (For clarification, the second "male voice", which appears later, is that of an AA Operations representative who is a troubleshooter for Operations Managers such as Nydia. His whereabouts and his name are unknown to me.) The "female voice" which switches to the correct name in the transcript is Nydia. It was also Nydia who gave testimony to the 9/11 investigators many months later. Obviously, "Betty Ong" is Betty.

Remember that beautiful face of Betty's, too, for that was one of the thousands of faces who perished that day. And it's a face, and a voice, we will never forget...nor should we.

Betty Ong's Call from 9/11 Flight 11

Contributions can be made in Betty's memory to the Betty Ong Foundation.

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