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8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Attendant Ong Phones in Hijack Report, Officials Doubt Validity
Betty Ong. [Source: The Eagle-Tribune] Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent at its Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, using a seatback Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and another employee, Winston Sadler, for about two minutes. Then, at 8:21 a.m., supervisor Nydia Gonzalez is patched in to the call as well. Ong says, “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.” Asked what flight she is on, she mistakenly answers, “Flight 12,” though a minute later she corrects this, saying, “I’m number three on Flight 11.” She continues, “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… I’m sitting in the back. Somebody’s coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they’re coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back, and she periodically waits for updates. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t even get inside.” Ong’s emergency call will last about 25 minutes, being cut off around 8:44 a.m. (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the recently installed recording system at the American Airlines reservations center contains a default time limit, and consequently only the first four minutes of it will be recorded. Gonzalez later testifies that Ong was “calm, professional and in control” all through the call. [BETTY ONG, 9/11/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; NEW YORK OBSERVER, 2/15/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 5 AND 453; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 8-9 ] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who will hear more recordings than are made public, later says that some officials on the ground greeted Ong’s account skeptically: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn’t air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/18/2004 SOURCES: BOB KERREY] Entity Tags: Bob Kerrey, Vanessa Minter, Nydia Gonzalez, Winston Sadler, Betty Ong, American Airlines Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 8:27 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Ong Gives Flight 11 Details; Seating Accounts Differ Nydia Gonzalez, an American Airlines supervisor at its Southeastern Reservations Office, is relaying information to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Marquis, “She said two flight attendants had been stabbed, one was on oxygen. A passenger had his throat slashed and looked dead and they had gotten into the cockpit.” Marquis later recollects that Ong said the four hijackers had come from first-class seats: 2A, 2B, 9A, and 9B. She’d said the wounded passenger was in seat 10B. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/15/2001; BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23/2001] Note that this conflicts with the seats flight attendant Amy Sweeney gave for the hijackers at about the same time: 9D, 9G, and 10B (see (Before 8:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At around 8:30 a.m., this information is passed to Gerard Arpey, the effective head of American Airlines this morning (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 12 ] By 9:59 a.m., counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and other top officials receive the information. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 13-14] Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, Richard A. Clarke, Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, American Airlines, Betty Ong Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Supervisor Confirms Details of Slightly Misnamed Hijacker Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office, is one of the American employees receiving the emergency phone call from Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). At this time, she confirms the details of a report by Ong, regarding the identity of one of the plane’s hijackers: “He’s the one that’s in the—he’s in the cockpit. Okay you said Tom Sukani? Okay—Okay and he was in 10B. Okay, okay, so he’s one of the persons that are in the cockpit. And as far as weapons, all they have are just knives?” “Tom Sukani” is presumably a mistaken reference to hijacker Satam Al Suqami. Gonzalez is continuously relaying details of Ong’s call to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines operations center in Fort Worth (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At 8:36 a.m., Marquis receives Gonzalez’s report about the hijacker Ong referred to as “Tom Sukani.” He then initiates a “lockout” procedure for Flight 11 (see 8:36 a.m.-8:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 12 ] Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Craig Marquis, American Airlines, Nydia Gonzalez Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight Attendant Betty Ong’s Call to American Airlines Ends For the last 25 minutes, Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong has been speaking by Airfone to three employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). As Flight 11 approaches New York and the World Trade Center, it appears to be quiet on board. Vanessa Minter, one of the employees receiving Ong’s call, later recalls, “You didn’t hear hysteria in the background. You didn’t hear people screaming.” In a composed voice, Ong repeatedly says, “Pray for us. Pray for us.” Minter and Nydia Gonzalez, the reservations office supervisor, assure her they are praying. Seconds later, the line goes dead. [ABC NEWS, 7/18/2002; PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, 9/8/2004] At 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, Gonzalez confirms, “I think we might have lost her.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 14 ] Amy Sweeney, another Flight 11 attendant, has also made an emergency phone call from the plane. This also ends at 8:44 a.m. (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Vanessa Minter, American Airlines Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: American Airlines Confirms that Flight 11 Hit the North Tower According to the 9/11 Commission, by 9:30 a.m. American Airlines confirms that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. This is almost 45 minutes after the attack occurred. Earlier, at around 9:16, an American air traffic control specialist had only told the FAA that the airline “thought” the first plane to hit the WTC had been Flight 11 (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 15-16 ] However, Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that American Airlines refused to confirm that its plane had hit the WTC for several hours afterwards. He will claim this lack of confirmation was a factor in his mistakenly reporting that Flight 11 was still airborne at 9:21 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). He says, “When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes. With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” [VANITY FAIR, 8/1/2006] Yet American Airlines had the advantage over United that two of its flight attendants on Flight 11 had been in extensive contact by phone, up until a couple of minutes before their plane crashed. Amy Sweeney had been talking to Michael Woodward, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport (see 8:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). And Betty Ong had been in contact with the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, with details of this call being continuously relayed to its System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 8-14 ] Entity Tags: American Airlines Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline