Chinatown Heroes

by Rev. Norman Fong

September 11, 2019

norman fong

Today is September 11, when everyone in the United States remembers the heroes of 9/11/2001 when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City. For Chinatown, we remember a very special heroine who grew up here in San Francisco’s Chinatown – Betty Ann Ong (鄧月薇). She was the hero - flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first airplane hijacked during the September 11 attacks. Shortly after the hijacking, Betty Ong notified the American Airlines ground crew about the hijacking, and bravely stayed on the telephone for 25 minutes while looking at the hijackers and relaying vital information that eventually led to the closing of airspace by the FAA for the first time in United States history.

betty ann ong
Betty Ann Ong (鄧月薇)

betty ann ong flight 11

betty ong chinese recreation center

I remember going to the Ong’s house that night for prayers as they feared Betty was on that flight… and later we found out it was Betty who was the one to call it in. It took the family and many of us community leaders in San Francisco years to get Betty Ong recognized as a true hero! A decade later, we got to rename the Chinese Recreation Center in her honor. Her family and many of us in the community were so happy to celebrate and honor her as a true national heroine! When we opened the Betty Ann Ong Recreation Center in 2011, my band played in the center and I remember seeing her brother Harry Ong dancing too! (See picture).

As we face difficult situations in life, always remember to be thankful for those heroes who have helped us. As a pastor, I have seen so many people going through tough situations and I am always amazed at those other people who step up to help someone who is sick, dying, facing tragedy and are in need. On 911, please be kind to those fire fighters, cops and hospital workers who are first responders to dangerous situations.

harry ong dancing
Harry Ong

bao yan chan cta community tenants association
Bao Yan Chan

This year on 9/11, I will be at the 2019 Bay Area Meal Pack which was co-founded by Jay Winuk who lost his brother in the World Trade Center attack. This event is very important because as a community we will be packing lunches for our local neighborhoods in honor of those lost and the families of those affected. More than 1,000 volunteers are expected to join together to pack 300,000 meals for Bay Area people in need. We must always remember as a community to come together to show our strength but also our love for one another! I am grateful for Betty but also for the Community Tenants Association (CTA). For the past 32 years, CTA members have fought for affordable housing in our community. They have made a difference for vulnerable seniors and families facing evictions and the threat of displacement. We continue on their legacies today to promote a better life for our residents and to also honor our heroes!


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