"On September 11, 2001, my husband Sean called me from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. The fates, in their mercy, granted us enough time to say what we needed to say to each other before the building collapsed and he was carried to his death."
Beverly Eckert, family survivor of 9/11 and victim of Colgan/Continental Flight 3407
Following is a speech given by Beverly in Battery Park, New York City, September 11, 2003.
On September 11, 2001, my husband Sean called me from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. The fates, in their mercy, granted us enough time to say what we needed to say to each other before the building collapsed and he was carried to his death. On September 11, 2001, my husband Sean became something very alien to the American experience. He became a 'civilian casualty'. And because of that, I found that I had become something different, too - a member of a world-wide community numbering in the millions, whose lives have been torn apart by the effects of man's inhumanity to man. The pain I felt that day transcended anger. It transcended the boundaries of my safe and orderly world and propelled me into the maelstrom of what I now know is a far truer reality-one shared by countless others who have suffered when political, religious, or cultural entities find ways to justify annihilation as a tactic to achieve their goals. On September 11, 2001, America was thrust into sisterhood with countries and peoples she had once helped, as well as countries and peoples she had once hurt. And so, September 11 is a beginning. My husband died because he was an American and I'm here today so I can help ensure that when history looks back in judgment on this new century, the word American will have stood for something righteous and good. September 11 has mobilized so many to further the cause of peace. Someday there will be a Memorial at the place nearby we call 'Ground Zero' and that future Memorial will be a reminder to people everywhere that we must, above all, demand integrity from those who govern us politically and tolerance from those who lead us spiritually. We're here today because we are the ones who hear the voices of the dead calling for an end to violence and hatred – voices that are telling us to rise above our fear in order to have a coherent and compassionate dialogue about the root causes of murderous strife; telling us that we need to shed our doubts about what a mere handful of believers can do; telling us that amid the ashes that covered this city two years ago and amid the blood-soaked killing fields in countless nations overseas, we will find the wisdom, grace, unity and strength we need so that on some future September 11, when we look around us, we will see a better world."
"My husband’s life was priceless, and I will not let his death be meaningless. My silence cannot be bought."
-Beverly Eckert, Friday, December 19, 2003, USA Today, Opinion Page
In her own words, Beverly publicly disclosed her decision to refuse the $1.8 million average death claim she could have collected and why she chose instead to go to court. She raised questions about what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four US passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. Further, Beverly wanted to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in two hours and why there were limited escape and rescue options.
Beverly felt that the cap placed on liability for any group associated with the cause of the tragedy prevented lessons from being learned to avoid future disasters from similar or related reasons. She further stated that she did not expect to collect any money for the lawsuit against the government. However, her work with 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer quoted below speaks to the effectiveness of her position regarding her work.
"I had the opportunity to work with Beverly from 2002 to 2009 as a member of Congress and a 9/11 commissioner. Over the past seven years, she was able to create the 9/11 commission, make a serious impact on the organization of the intelligence community and define the critical role of a U.S. citizen in our 21st century democracy."
-Tim Roemer, former Democratic congressman from Indiana, former ambassador to India and 9/11 Commission member.
Tim Roemer praised Beverly for her work with other 9/11 families to push Congress to create a new office—the Director of National Intelligence—to provide strategic coordination for the 16 agencies in the intelligence community. In addition, Roemer stated that Beverly served to modernize and update the role of citizen advocate. She channeled great grief and potentially crippling loss into public advocacy that produced significant change.
Beverly had told Roemer that she wanted to "live a good life, be strong and inspire people." According to Roemer, people like Beverly Eckert, who achieved change and made a difference in our politics, are what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he said, "a government of the people, and for the people.”
President Obama on Friday (following the crash of Colgan/Continental Flight 3407) praised Beverly Eckert, the widow of a September 11 victim and a prominent post-9/11 activist, who was one of the passengers who died in a plane crash outside Buffalo, New York. “Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day. And one person who understood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight and who I met with just a few days ago. In keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband’s birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. She was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.” Obama said.
At the Foundation we are grateful to Karen Eckert and her family for allowing us to use pictures of Beverly and her husband Sean in the pictorial tribute in the opener for the 2021 Member-Partner Meeting. We also want to express our gratitude to the family for furnishing us with the articles quoted here, and other references about her life and work. Karen made it possible for us to share about Beverly’s enormous contributions with a much wider audience—a story that deserves to be told through out time.