A window twice broken

Betty Ong was one of the flight attendants who died on 9/11. She was also a native San Franciscan. Since 1994, a large mural in San Francisco’s Chinatown has celebrated the Chinese in San Francisco. In 2003, the site’s owners and the artist added a tribute to Ms. Ong to that mural. And since then, vandals have defaced it over and over:

The only local monument to a heroic flight attendant from San Francisco killed in the Sept. 11 attacks six years ago is a North Beach mural that vandals have defaced almost beyond recognition.

Betty Ong, 45, who grew up in Chinatown and North Beach, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane hijacked by the terrorists. Just minutes before the plane smashed into the World Trade Center, she quietly contacted authorities and gave a detailed description of the hijackers.

Ong is one of several Chinatown natives depicted in a 200-foot-long, 7-foot-tall mural dedicated to Chinese contributions to American history. Titled “Gold Mountain,” the mural also includes educators and nurses, Edsel Ford Fong, a waiter made famous by the late Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, and Larry Ching, the “Chinese Frank Sinatra,” who was a longtime entertainer at Forbidden City.

Painted by artist Ann Sherry in 1994 on the side of an apartment building on Romolo Place, the mural has been damaged by taggers numerous times. Each time, Sherry, the building’s owners and community volunteers have stepped up to perform touchups – and twice to restore the mural completely.

Ong’s family, the artist and the owners understand what’s a stake here. This is not about Troofers, or any other insanity. This is about not allowing nihilists, in the form of the vandals who plague very city, to take over and destroy the city’s fabric:

Ong’s sister, Cathie Ong, said the family is deeply honored by the mural but has been hurt by the graffiti.

“Our mother was so upset – she thought it was an attack on Betty,” Ong said by phone from New York City. “We had to explain that this was just vandalism that damaged the whole mural and hurts everyone.”


The mural’s supporters are undaunted.

“We’re not going to give up and let the taggers win,” Lam said. “This is not just another piece of artwork. This is our history. This is our legacy. We’re not going to let anyone destroy this.”