By Dustin Luca Andover Townsman
A community center named after an Andover resident turned national hero for her bravery during the September 11 attacks will be opened to the public in July. The Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center, previously the Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco, has been on the receiving end of a $21 million reconstruction project that will be completed next month. Ong, 45 and a San Francisco native, died during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. She was an American Airlines flight attendant on Flight 11, the airplane flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Ong made a phone call to authorities on the ground on September 11, 2001 that made them aware that Flight 11, had been hijacked. She is credited with staying on the telephone for 25 minutes, relaying vital information that led the FAA to close airspace for the first time in United States history.
Because of her actions, the city of San Francisco has named after her one of its 25 recreation centers – specifically the one near where she grew up. The center will operate inside “one of San Francisco’s most densely populated neighborhoods by providing sports-related activities and programs to people of all generations and backgrounds,” said Cathie Ong-Herrera, president of the Betty Ann Ong Foundation and one of Betty’s sisters.
The foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 2002 to promote children’s wellness and active lifestyles, helped finance the furnishing of the center. The center will be reopened to the public on Saturday, July 14 at noon, according to Harry Ong, Betty’s brother.
In Andover, Betty Ong’s name and those of three other Andover residents who died on September 11 are memorialized in the entryway to the Town Offices at 36 Bartlet St. That memorial was dedicated on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.