Beverly Eckert

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Beverly Eckert
Obama and Beverly Eckert.jpg
Beverly Eckert shaking hands with President of the United States Barack Obama less than a week before her death.
Born (1951-05-29)May 29, 1951
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died February 12, 2009(2009-02-12) (aged 57)
Clarence Center, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Plane crash
Nationality American
Education Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart
Alma mater State University of New York at Buffalo
Known for Member of 9/11 Family Steering Committee
Died on Colgan Air Flight 3407
Spouse(s) Sean Rooney (m. 1980–2001; his death in the September 11 attacks)

Beverly Eckert (May 29, 1951 – February 12, 2009) was an activist and advocate for the creation of the 9/11 Commission. She was one of the members of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission. Eckert's husband, Sean Rooney, died at age 50 in the attacks of September 11, 2001. She pushed for a commission to investigate 9/11 and to establish a memorial.

Eckert died at age 57 on February 12, 2009, in the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, New York. She had met with President Barack Obama just a few days before her death in her role as an advocate for those affected by 9/11.

Before the September 11 attack[edit]

Eckert was born in 1951 in Buffalo, New York, and met her future husband, Sean P. Rooney, at a dance at Canisius High School, a Jesuit-run academy in that city, when both were 16 years old. Eckert attended the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls high school in Eggertsville, New York. She received a degree in fine arts in 1975 from Buffalo State College, where in 2005 she gave the Baccalaureate Commencement Address. Rooney lived in Buffalo until 1978, working as a manager of restaurants, until he began working in the financial services industry and moving to Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. When he died he was a vice president for risk management services at the Aon Corporation. He worked on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower, one of 32 employees in Aon's offices there.[1]

The couple, who had no children and lived in the Glenbrook section of Stamford, Connecticut, had been married 21 years when Rooney died. Before Rooney's death, they had celebrated their 50th birthdays with vacations to Vermont, to mark his, and Morocco, to mark hers.[1]

September 11, 2001[edit]

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, Rooney called his wife and exchanged voice mail messages with her. To get to safety, he made his way to the 105th floor of his building, trying to reach the roof, when he became trapped until the tower collapsed, killing him.[1][2]

After Eckert learned about the attacks, she went home and stayed on the phone with her husband until she heard the tower collapse. She described the incident in a StoryCorps interview.[3][4]

After September 11[edit]

Eckert commissioned this mural at Glenbrook train station, where her husband had once waited during his commute to work. The image depicts her husband's favorite golf course.[5]
Plaque at the mural at Glenbrook train station

Eckert became a leading activist among 9/11 victims' families, joining with others in lobbying for creation of the 9/11 Commission, improvements to national security, and for creation of a memorial at the World Trade Center site. In pressing federal elected officials to do a better job in protecting Americans from terrorism, she was among a number of 9/11 victims' family members active in pressing for sweeping reforms of U.S. intelligence.[6] She also spoke in opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[4][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Eckert was the co-chairperson of the group Voices of September 11.[13]

Locally, Eckert worked with Stamford city officials on various memorial projects. She left her job at General Re and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and, beginning in September 2008, as a tutor at the Julia A. Stark Elementary School. She was also a member of the Glenbrook Neighborhood Association. In honor of her husband and other victims, Eckert planted birch trees near a trail in Cove Island Park where she and Rooney learned to in-line skate. At the Glenbrook train station, where her husband commuted to work, she commissioned a mural and planted a sycamore tree as a memorial. Shortly before her death, she joined a neighborhood association committee to improve the station.[4]

Death[edit]

Eckert was killed on February 12, 2009, in the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, New York.[14] She was traveling to Buffalo for a gathering with her family to mark what would have been Rooney's 58th birthday on February 15. A ceremony had also been scheduled at Canisius High School in which she was to award a student with a memorial scholarship in Rooney's honor.

A week before her death, Eckert met with U.S. President Barack Obama, to discuss detainees at Guantanamo and other matters.[15] In a press conference after her death, Obama described her as a "tireless advocate for the families, those whose lives were forever changed on that September day."[15]

On June 18, 2009, Margaux Eckert, executrix of her sister's estate, filed a lawsuit in New Haven, Connecticut, against Colgan Air, Pinnacle Air and Continental Airlines, claiming they were responsible for the crash.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Chan, Sewell (February 14, 2009). "Beverly Eckert, Leader of Families of 9/11 Victims, Dies at 57". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  2. ^ http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/norwalkadvocate/ci_11705423
  3. ^ http://storycorps.org/listen/stories/beverly-eckert/
  4. ^ a b c Potts, Monica and Martin Cassidy, "Neighbors: 'For this to happen just seems unreal': 'A deeply felt loss' among neighbors in Stamford", article, February 14, 2009, The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, retrieved same day.
  5. ^ Porstner, Donna (September 9, 2006). "Places to pay tribute". Stamford Advocate. 
  6. ^ Silva, Mark, "Beverly Eckert: Crash victim, 9/11 widow", blog post, February 13, 2009, The Swamp blog of the Chicago Tribune, retrieved February 14, 2009.
  7. ^ "Beverly Eckert, 9/11 widow, champions intelligence reform legislation". US News and World Report. 2004-12-13. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  8. ^ "Sky News report". Sky News. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Fiery plane crash near Buffalo, NY, kills 50". News.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2009-02-14. [dead link]
  10. ^ Linstedt, Sharon (2009-02-13). "Beverly Eckert, widow of 9/11 victim, was aboard Flight 3407". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2009-02-14. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Clinton: People of WNY will pull together". WROC-TV. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-02-13. [dead link]
  12. ^ "My Silence Cannot Be Bought", article by Eckert, reprinted from USA Today, December 19, 2003
  13. ^ Voices of September 11th
  14. ^ http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1220-04.htm
  15. ^ a b Vogel, Charity, "Passengers and crew aboard Flight 3407: Their stories" at the Wayback Machine (archived February 17, 2009), article, February 14, 2009, The Buffalo News, retrieved same day
  16. ^ http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/06/18/Suit_Filed_in_Airline_Death_of_9_11_Spokesperson.htm