September 11, 2001
Primary Source Project
Transcript of Flight Attendant Betty Ong
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. [Note: This is incorrect. The correct number is Flight 11.]
Operator: And what seat are you in? Ma'am, are you there?
Betty Ong: Yes.
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.
Female Voice: Okay.
Betty Ong: At 3R.
Female Voice: Okay.
Male Voice: Okay, you're the flight attendant? I'm sorry, did you say you're the flight attendant?
Betty Ong: Hello?
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.
Male Voice: Okay.
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. Some-body'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 Gonzalez: 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.
Male Voice: Yes.
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.
Female Voice: Okay.
Betty Ong: I'm staying on the line as well.
Male Voice: Okay.
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?
Nydia Gonzalez: Nydia.
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 on 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.
Male Voice: Okay.
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.
Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.
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.
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.
Nydia Gonzalez: Uh, huh.
Male Voice: And we're going to run some profiles.
Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.
Male Voice: To see exactly what his endurance is.
Nydia Gonzalez: Okay.
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.
Mr. Balkin's Experience
There were announcements on the PA system, asking people in WTC II, my building, to remain calm. We were told there had been an incident in WTC I, but WTC II was in no immediate danger. We were asked to let the people from the other building evacuate first. That made sense to me. If everybody evacuated, we would all get stuck in the bottleneck downstairs. I stayed put. But other people in my building didn't listen to the announcements. They left.
I was hoping that my wife, Catherine, was still home but there was no answer when I phoned there. Then I remembered an incident from last year. There had been an elevator accident on the other side of my building and my mother, who lives in Chicago, had found out about it and called to see if everything was alright. I hadn't even known about it until she called me. Thinking about that incident, I had the feeling she would be hearing about this one before long. Fortunately, this time I knew something had happened in the World Trade Center before CNN was broadcasting it to the world. So I called my mother in Chicago and told her I was okay. *No matter what you hear,* I said. *I'm okay. WTC I is on fire, but it's the other building. Not mine.* My mother listened to me, but she had no idea what I was talking about. I told her I didn't have the time to talk, because I had to try to reach Catherine. So she asked me to keep her posted and we hung up. I tried my wife's work phone number and got her voicemail. At that time, Catherine had a very long greeting on her voicemail at HarperCollins and it was always exasperating to have to wait to leave her a message.
The smell of fuel was getting quite strong now and people were beginning to head down the emergency stairs. I started to join them. I got to the emergency exit, but when I saw people flying down the stairs, I thought, *I don't need this right now.* It was the other building that was on fire. The people dashing down the stairs could easily get hurt in their rush and I didn't want to be one of them. I decided to wait.
Then I saw a man from the North Tower die. He jumped out a window and he was very calm. He looked about my age. Thinning hair on top. Wearing a long-sleeved casual dress shirt and beige dress pants not unlike the pair I had on. He jumped from above me. I was on the 68th floor, and he must have come from maybe the 85th floor, maybe higher. I watched him go all the way down. He looked to his left and right on the way down, and when he got close to the ground, he looked straight at it, then his head was a red explosion. Blood bloomed like an early fall flower. As far as I know, he was the first person to jump. He made it look so easy. Here was a man who might have been thinking about what he wanted for lunch just a few minutes ago. He had gone from routine decisions to life and death decisions in --– what? –-- ten minutes? Ten seconds?
Glykeria Manis Experience In The Second Tower
"I was in the copy room for two minutes and when I came out, I saw a bunch of people at the windows. Where my desk was located, we had a perfect view of the first building. There were a bunch of coworkers gathered around my desk, watching in a sort of trance, in shock. The first thing I saw was a hole in the east side of the first tower that was growing. The steel of the building was peeling off like a banana and falling. It started getting bigger and then everything started getting sucked out of the building: papers, CDs, computers and eventually people.
"This one guy had his nosed pressed up against the window. You could feel the heat emanating from the glass. When the first man jumped, I watched my coworker as the body dropped. He was following the guy with his eyes. He may have seen the guy fall completely. I was standing a few feet from the window and couldn't see all of the way down. It was at that moment another guy in the group said, 'Lets' get the f**k out of here.' Everyone scattered.
"A coworker was next me, a Chinese man, mid-50s, an engineer with a very calm personality. I looked at him and said, 'I don't know where the stairs are. Can I walk with you?' He said sure. I grabbed my sweater and purse, he came with his briefcase and we started toward the stairs.
"On a normal day, for me to get down to the lobby, I had to take the local elevator from the 91st floor to the 76th floor, and then transfer to the express elevator to lobby. When we got into the stairwell, I realized I'd have to walk all the way down. As were getting lower, more and more people started entering the stairwell.
"People were acting completely random. Women were going down the stairs in stilettos. I thought, 'Why don't you just take off your shoes? Everyone could walk more quickly that way.' One guy started pushing people to get down faster. This other lady was reaching over my shoulder to grab the woman in front of me. I figured they were friends, so I asked her, 'Would you like to step in front of me?' I thought that was easier than reaching over my shoulder and risking all of us taking a tumble down the stairs. Why didn't she think of that?
"At one point it hit me really hard: 'I have to get out NOW!' It hit me in my heart, in my chest. When I looked up, it said Floor 76. I pulled myself out from the stream of people, reached through the crowd, grabbed my coworker's hand, and pulled him out.
"I said, 'OK, I think we should take the elevator but I'm scared.'
"He said, 'Ok, we'll open the door, and if it's safe, we'll go out.'
"We didn't know what kind of hell we were going to see. I wanted to get out of that stairwell, but I was scared, and I knew I was taking a really big risk. I had a coworker tell me later that he had been in the elevator and as soon as they got to the lobby, the second plane hit. We decided that if it didn't look safe, we wouldn't go through the door.
Remarks From President George W. Bush After Two Planes Crash Into World Trade Center
September 11, 2001
Emma Booker Elementary School
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately,
will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Paige and
the Lt. Governor will take the podium and discuss education. I do want to
thank the folks here at Booker Elementary School for their hospitality.
Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the
World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have
spoken to the Vice President, to the Governor of New York, to the Director of
the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government
go to help the victims and their families, and to conduct a full-scale
investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.
Terrorism against our nation will not stand.
And now if you would join me in a moment of silence. May God bless the
victims, their families, and America. Thank you very much.
END 9:31 A.M.
Part of Catherine Balkin's Story (Husband was in the tower)
The South Tower had fallen. That was where Charlie's office was. That was where I had just left a message. How was it possible that his voicemail had worked?
All over Union Square, people were standing in the street, crying, whispering, staring. I was one of them. So much was incomprehensible.
I didn't know what to do. My plan to walk down there and find an ambulance driver didn't seem right anymore, although I couldn't let myself know why.
I needed a new plan.
I decided to call my office again and talk to my boss. Maybe he could offer some advice.
My hands were shaking again, and I had trouble getting another quarter out of my purse. There was some expression on my face that must have reflected the horror in my heart because someone with a camera took my picture. I tried to turn away from him.
I dialed my office number. My assistant, Liz Ann, answered the phone and immediately said, *He called. He's in Soho. He's walking uptown and will meet you at Harper. Come to the office.*
My voice stopped working. My throat closed and I couldn't breathe. I heard something like a gasp coming from my mouth. I clutched the side of the pay phone. *Catherine?* Liz Ann's voice was trying to reach me. *Yes,* I said. *I'm on my way. Tell him to wait for me.*
Laura Bush and Her Experience
Senator Kennedy was waiting to greet me, according to plan. We both knew when we met that the towers had been hit and, without a word being spoken, knew that there would be no briefing that morning. Together, we walked the short distance to his office. He began by presenting me with a limited-edition print; it was a vase of bright daffodils, a copy of a painting he had created for his wife, Victoria, and given to her on their wedding day. The print was inscribed to me and dated September 11, 2001.
An old television was turned on in a corner of the room, and I glanced over to see the plumes of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers. Senator Kennedy kept his eyes averted from the screen. Instead he led me on a tour of his office, pointing out various pictures, furniture, pieces of memorabilia, even a framed note that his brother Jack had sent to their mother when he was a child, in which he wrote, “Teddy is getting fat.” The senator, who would outlive all his brothers by more than forty years, laughed at the note as he showed it to me, still finding it amusing.
All the while, I kept glancing over at the glowing television screen. My skin was starting to crawl, I wanted to leave, to find out what was going on, to process what I was seeing, but I felt trapped in an endless cycle of pleasantries. It did not occur to me to say, “Senator Kennedy, what about the towers?” I simply followed his lead, and he may have feared that if we actually began to contemplate what had happened in New York, I might dissolve into tears.
Unknown Personal Experience
My teacher returned to the room visibly shaken by whatever she was just told. She then proceeded to tell us that a plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers. She called it a “horrible accident.” Seventeen minutes later, the second plane crashed, and even at 15 years old, I knew — we all knew — this was no accident.
Now, this was before Twitter and the ability to live tweet the minute you see anything. This was before Facebook when you could ask your digital world if anything funny was going on. This was before YouTube and Instagram, we could not watch what was happening practically in real time.
We only knew what we were told, and we weren’t told much. Two planes, with passengers, crashed into both towers. Like most of my peers, I did not even own a cell phone yet.
Looking from our classroom window, you could see the smoke, even at that distance. Regardless, when the bell sounded, we were told to go on to our next period as normal. That was where we learned a third plane had just crashed into the Pentagon.About 20 minutes later, another plane crashed in Pennsylvania. We would later come to learn that this flight, United Airlines Flight 93, left from our local airport and was meant to crash in DC, presumably the White House, but brave passengers revolted against the hijackers.
Remarks By The President George W. Bush Upon Arrival At Barksdale Air Force Base
September 11, 2001
I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal
government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help
the victims of these attacks. Make no mistake: The United States will hunt
down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.
I've been in regular contact with the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense,
the national security team and my Cabinet. We have taken all appropriate
security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home
and around the world is on high alert status, and we have taken the necessary
security precautions to continue the functions of your government.
We have been in touch with the leaders of Congress and with world leaders to
assure them that we will do whatever is necessary to protect America and
I ask the American people to join me in saying a thanks for all the folks who
have been fighting hard to rescue our fellow citizens and to join me in saying
a prayer for the victims and their families.
The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will
show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.
Statement By President George W. Bush In His Address To The Nation
September 11, 2001
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our
very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist
acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen
and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and
neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures
collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet,
unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our
nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks
can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the
foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the
steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for
freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we
responded with the best of America—with the daring of our rescue workers,
with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help
in any way they could.
Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's
emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our
emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C. to help
with local rescue efforts.
Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take
every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from
further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal
agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for
essential personnel tonight, and will be open for business tomorrow. Our
financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open
for business, as well.
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed
the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find
those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction
between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in
strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I
thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and
security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.
Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose
worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has
been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than
any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for
justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so
this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend
freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.
Rudolph Giuliani (NY Mayor) 9/11 Adress to United Nations
On September 11th 2001, New York City -- the most diverse City in the world -- was viciously attacked in an unprovoked act of war. More than five thousand innocent men, women, and children of every race, religion, and ethnicity are lost. Among these were people from 80 different nations. To their representatives here today, I offer my condolences to you as well on behalf of all New Yorkers who share this loss with you. This was the deadliest attack --terrorist attack in history. It claimed more lives than Pearl Harbor or D-Day.
This was not just an attack on the City of New York or on the United States of America. It was an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society. It was a direct assault on the founding principles of the United Nations itself. The Preamble to the U.N. Charter states that this organization exists "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person...to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors…[and] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security."
Indeed this vicious attack places in jeopardy the whole purpose of the United Nations. Terrorism is based on the persistent and deliberate violation of fundamental human rights. With bullets and bombs, and now with hijacked airplanes, terrorists deny the dignity of human life. Terrorism preys particularly on cultures and communities that practice openness and tolerance. Their targeting of innocent civilians mocks the efforts of those who seek to live together in peace as neighbors. It defies the very notion of being a neighbor.
This massive attack was intended to break our spirit. It has not done that. It's made us stronger, more determined, and more resolved. The bravery of our firefighters, our police officers, our emergency workers, and civilians we may never learn of, in saving over 25,000 lives that day, and carrying out the most effective rescue operation in our history, inspires all of us.