Community Center named after Sept. 11 hero

July 14, 2012 7:35:09 PM PDT
A Sept. 11 hero was honored in San Francisco on Saturday. A community center was named after Betty Ong, a flight attendant on board one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. Friends and family came to the new facility to pay tribute to her.

"I would like to proclaim today, in recognition of this event, the center and naming of it Betty Ann Ong Chinese Rec Center Day in San Francisco," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

The 24,000 square foot center is a symbol of hope, strength, and inspiration. It's named after Betty Ann Ong, a San Francisco native who died September 11 on board American Airlines Flight 11, when it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

"She was the first voice to alert the world of the attacks," said Cathie Ong, Betty's sister.

Ong, who was a flight attendant, hid in the back of the plane, picked up a crew phone, and called a reservations desk.

"The cockpit is not answering the phone and there's somebody stabbed in business class. There's ... we can't breathe in business class, somebody's got mace or something," said Betty.

The 9/11 Commission declared her a hero and on Saturday her community publicly did too.

"I think a great tribute to rename this because in this community she's a hero to all of us," said Jimmy Chin from the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department.

The Ong family lived a few blocks from the rec center and Betty used to play there regularly. The aging center was torn down two years ago and rebuilt.

Saturday was also about making new memories while honoring the old. Greg Gunter and Betty worked together for American Airlines. He refused to miss this day and see this tribute.

"She was one of the kindest persons I've ever known," said Gunter.

"I'm hoping if anything they will walk away knowing there was a brave little girl who grew up here in Chinatown and who became very, very heroic," said Cathie.

The rec center will be open to the public starting Tuesday.


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