9/11 Widow Killed In Plane Crash

By: AP
By: AP

(AP) One of the victims of Continental Flight 3407, Beverly Eckert, was a Sept. 11 widow who put her never-ending grief to 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 killed in the 2001 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole to discuss how the new administration would handle terror suspects.

"She was such an important part of all of our work," said Mary Fetchet, another 9/11 family activist. She learned Eckert was aboard the plane from another close Eckert family friend now headed to Buffalo. Officials investigating the crash have not yet confirmed she was on board the plane.

Eckert, who was flying to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband Sean Rooney's 58th birthday, was one of the most visible, tearful faces in the aftermath of the terror attacks.

She carried that grief to Congress as she tried to make the government do a better job protecting its citizens from terrorism.

Her husband worked at Aon Corp., a risk management firm, at the 98th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.

She cried when she would tell the story about how her husband - who was her high school sweetheart - called her on the morning of the attacks, and told her he loved her just before there was a loud explosion and nothing more.

Eckert was part of a small group of Sept. 11 widows, mothers, and children who became amateur lobbyists, ultimately forcing lawmakers in 2004 to pass sweeping reforms of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

They spent months walking the halls of Congress. All of the women were grieving, but Eckert seemed unable or uninterested in holding back her tears.

When it was over and they'd won passage of the intelligence reform law, Eckert vowed to quit her high-profile role "cold turkey." 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," she said, crying again. "There is a euphoria in knowing that we reached the top of the hill. ... I just wanted Sean to come home from work. Maybe now, someone else's Sean will get to come home."

Eckert was flying to her hometown Thursday night when the plane crashed on approach to the Buffalo airport.

2 Jazz Musicians Among Victims

Two members of jazz musician Chuck Mangione's band were among those killed in the plane crash, a publicist said.

Publicist Sanford Brokaw identified the band members as Gerry Niewood, 64, of Rochester, N.Y., and Coleman Mellett of Maryland. Niewood played saxophone and flute and Mellett was a guitarist.

In a statement Mangione said: "I'm in shock over the horrible, heartbreaking tragedy of the crash of Flight 3407, which took the lives of my dear friends and band members. I am grieving and praying with their families and friends."

Mangione and his band were scheduled to perform Friday with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall. The concert has been postponed.

Other Known Victims:

These names have been provided by airline officials, relatives or friends.

Crew members:

Capt. Marvin Renslow, pilot, of Lutz, Fla.

Rebecca Shaw, first officer, of Maple Valley, Wash.

Matilda Quintero, flight attendant.

Donna Prisco, flight attendant.

Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto, off-duty crew member.

Passengers:

Alison Des Forges, of Buffalo, considered one of the world's leading experts on the genocide in Rwanda.

Ellyce Kausner, student at Florida Coastal School of Law.

Maddy Loftus, of Parsippany, N.J. Headed to Buffalo for weekend reunion of women hockey players.

Susan Wehle, of Amherst, N.Y. Was cantor at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville.

Carl Yarber, of Riverside, Calif., member of several Tampa Bay, Fla.-area bands over the past several decades.

© MMIX The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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