Stamford 9/11 widow killed in upstate NY plane crash

(AP) - One of the victims of Continental Flight 3407,Beverly Eckert, was a Sept. 11 widow who put her never-ending griefto good use to make

STAMFORD - (AP) - One of the victims of Continental Flight 3407,Beverly Eckert, was a Sept. 11 widow who put her never-ending griefto good use to make the country safer. Just last week, Eckert was at the White House with Barack Obama,part of a meeting the president had with relatives of those killedin the 2001 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole to discuss howthe new administration would handle terror suspects. "She was such an important part of all of our work," said MaryFetchet, another 9/11 family activist. She learned Eckert wasaboard the plane from another close Eckert family friend now headedto Buffalo. Officials investigating the crash have not yetconfirmed she was on board the plane. Eckert, who was flying to Buffalo to celebrate what would havebeen her husband Sean Rooney's 58th birthday, was one of the mostvisible, tearful faces in the aftermath of the terror attacks. She cried as she told the story about how her husband - her highschool sweetheart - was on the phone in the World Trade Centertelling her he loved her when suddenly there was a loud explosionand nothing more. She carried that grief to Congress as she tried to make thegovernment do a better job protecting its citizens from terrorism. Eckert was part of a small group of Sept. 11 widows, mothers,and children who became amateur lobbyists, ultimately forcinglawmakers in 2004 to pass sweeping reforms of the U.S. intelligenceapparatus. They spent months walking the halls of Congress. All of thewomen were grieving, but Eckert seemed unable or uninterested inholding back her tears. When it was over and they'd won passage of the intelligencereform law, Eckert vowed to quit her high-profile role "coldturkey." All she wanted, she said, was to go home, buy groceries,and return to something like a regular life. "I did all of this for Sean's memory, I did it for him," shesaid, crying again. "There is a euphoria in knowing that wereached the top of the hill. ... I just wanted Sean to come homefrom work. Maybe now, someone else's Sean will get to come home." Eckert was flying to her hometown Thursday night when the planecrashed on approach to the Buffalo airport. After the 2001 attacks, she co-chaired the 9/11 Family SteeringCommittee, a group of activists devoted to exposing governmentfailures that led up to the 2001 attacks, and fixing them. She pushed for a 9/11 Commission. She pushed the Bushadministration to provide more information to the commission. Andwhen the commission's work was over, she pushed Congress to adopttheir recommendations. It was not an easy role for her. One night after a long day at Congress, she found herself in theNew York City train station, without a connecting train to herConnecticut home. "We slept in the train station. We had no place else to go.That's when you look at yourself and say, 'What am I doing? How canwe possibly get this done?'." As Congress hemmed and hawed, Eckert vowed to sleep there, too,if it would get the law passed. After the law passed, Eckert turned her energies to Habitat forHumanity, helping build homes for low-income families. "I'm in shock, I just can't believe it," said Carie Lemack,whose mother died Sept. 11 on one of the hijacked planes. "Beverlyhad a can-do attitude about everything, and she never gave up."

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