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8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Attendant Betty Ong Calls Airline Reservations Office to Report Hijacking

Vanessa Minter.Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453] Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” [WRAL, 9/9/2011]
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, American Airlines, Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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